Captured wild horses are transported during a 2016 roundup at Devils Garden Wild Horse Territory.
RTF file photo by Steve Paige.
All of us at Return to Freedom have been moved by the outpouring of interest from our supporters and the public at large in protecting some of the last vestiges of California’s largest wild horse herd from slaughter.
The U.S. Forest Service is currently conducting a helicopter roundup of 1,000 horses at the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory at Modoc National Forest near Alturas, Calif. Each day, wild horses are being separated from their family bands and herds and sorted by age and gender, with the older horses – including pregnant mares – in greatest jeopardy of being sold to kill buyers who will transport them to Mexico or Canada for slaughter.
The Forest Service is transporting an estimated 300 captured wild horses ages 10-older to corrals on Forest Service lands, where they will be put up for sale with some oversight for 60 days after being made ready for placement, or no earlier than Jan. 10. The agency says that it will sell horses with limitations including prohibiting the purchase of wild horses for human consumption as well as providing adequate transportation and adequate accommodations during these 60 days.
After that 60-day period, however, the Forest Service plans to sell remaining wild horses without no restrictions for as little as $1 apiece.
Captured wild horses estimated to be ages 9-under are being transported to Bureau of Land Management corrals in Susanville, Calif., where they will be offered for adoption. Forest Service officials have said that arrangements have been made for BLM to keep captured wild horses there for one year, but no longer, possibly placing them in jeopardy of eventually being sold without restrictions where they will easily end up in the slaughter pipeline as well.
The Forest Service is attempting to rid itself of more than a fourth of the wild horses in California’s last large herd by taking advantage of the fact that Congress, in its Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations package, specifically prohibited the sale without limitation of wild horses and burros by the BLM but not by the Forest Service.
Capturing wild horses just before the onset of winter increases the risk to the most vulnerable animals. Having survived being chased over extremely rocky ground by a helicopter, the oldest horses will now be placed in unsheltered holding corrals in harsh weather at a time when feed is at its most expensive. Cost of feed and winter weather also makes this time of year the least successful time to sell or adopt horses, making the placing of hundreds of horses in good homes in just 60 days even more difficult.
Return to Freedom has joined with other wild horse advocates, the public, and federal and state lawmakers to urge the Forest Service to respect the overwhelming public opposition to horse slaughter and abandon its sale plans. We’ve also met with the staff of Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris in recent days.
After taking on an additional 120 at-risk horses last year, RTF’s own American Wild Horse Sanctuary is at capacity, already providing care for a total of about 550 wild horses and burros at four locations. We are actively marshalling interested supporters to make the greatest impact for the horses being captured from Devil’s Garden who are at greatest risk in the most efficient way that we can.
To start, we’ve been compiling a list of those willing and able to help at-risk wild horses:
Thank you for supporting wild horses and burros in California and throughout the West,
Founder and president, Return to Freedom
* Please click here if you can provide a good home to two or more wild horses, especially those ages 10-older, offer transportation for rescued horses, or would like to donate to support the rescue effort.
* Please click here to send a letter to your members of Congress urging them to oppose the Bureau of Land Management sale policy, which allows any buyer to purchase up to 24 wild horses with no waiting period, no oversight and no questions asked.
* Please keep calling U. S. Senators on the Conference Committee and urge them to continue standing up for wild horses and burros and opposing slaughter. Click here for suggested talking points and a list of phone numbers.