Carson City neighborhood grieves as BLM traps local wild horses

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Los Angeles Times /John M. Glionna / February 28, 2013

Federal officials trapped a small band of wild horses near a Carson City subdivision where residents had virtually adopted the animals. (Laura Leigh / Wild Horse Education)

Federal officials trapped a small band of wild horses near a Carson City subdivision where residents had virtually adopted the animals. (Laura Leigh / Wild Horse Education)

VEGAS – A grass-roots community group in northern Nevada watched helplessly Wednesday as federal officials removed most of what remained of a band of wild mustangs with which residents say they have peacefully coexisted for years.

About two dozen residents of a subdivision called Deer Run outside Carson City say they have tried unsuccessfully to negotiate the fate of 11 mustangs with the Bureau of Land Management, which governs public lands in Nevada and elsewhere and has purview over the wild horses.

But on Wednesday, residents watched as four horses were lured into a trap by officials using a bucket of alfalfa and barley.

“They were like the Pied Piper,” Annie Jantzen, a local photographer who has taken pictures of the horses as part of an educational book, told the Los Angeles Times. “One guy led the horses for half a mile before they were tricked into the trap. It was heartbreaking to watch.”

Jantzen said the mustangs were mild-mannered and tolerant of visitors, sometimes even nuzzling them.

The debate over wild horses has raged across 11 Western states. BLM officials say the horses overgraze and damage public lands. Animal advocates and others say BLM officials are intent on removing as many wild horses as possible, without considering such alternatives as birth control.

“We put forth a comprehensive proposal, but they wouldn’t work with us,” Jantzen said. “We offered to pay for a fence and for birth control and just about everything else you could ask for; that’s how much these mustangs mean to us. But the BLM ignored us.”

BLM officials in Reno and Washington did not respond to requests for comment from The Times.

But the agency’s website says the horses had become a problem that drew complaints from some neighbors after the mustangs wandered from their domain, the so-called Pine Nut Mountains herd management area.

Activists say the band numbered nearly 50 several years ago, but federal officials recently reduced the number to 11. A few weeks ago, five more were trapped, leaving just six.

“These horses have caused intermittent problems along the urban edge by harassing domestic horses, visitors in nearby parks, equestrians and homeowners and present a hazard for vehicle drivers by crossing paved roads,” the BLM said on its website, adding that the animals would be put up for adoption. The agency already has more than 50,000 wild horses in long-term captivity.

Jantzen and others from the Deer Run Protection Group painted a different picture: The local community accepted sharing its park with the wild animals, leaving them in peace to sometimes graze in the popular park. They said the boundaries for the Pine Nut Mountains herd management area run right along the park, and the animals were being penalized for taking a few steps across an imaginary line to seek green grass there.

“What made this herd so special is that they were so friendly,” Jantzen said. “Most wild horses won’t let people get near them or their babies. But these horses would be in the park and let your kids look at their kids. I’d go there and sometimes they’d nuzzle me. It was like falling in love.”

A wild horse advocacy group blasted the BLM on Wednesday, saying the agency had already removed 50,000 wild horses from the Western range and put them in long-term holding.

“We are outraged that, at a time when the BLM has stockpiled an astounding 50,000 wild horses in captivity, this agency is unwilling to work with the community to prevent the removal of more horses by keeping one small family of cherished horses wild and free,” said Deniz Bolbol, communications director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, with offices in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. AWHPC has been working with the Deer Run community on a plan for the horses.

Nevada state Sen. Mark Manendo was also dismayed with the BLM’s activities in Deer Run. “As an advocate for Nevada and its animals, domestic and wild, I encourage the BLM to exhaust all efforts to work with Carson City citizens dedicated to keeping our wild horses on their native land,” he said, according to the advocacy group’s news release.

On its website, the BLM said the community’s alternative plan for the horses was not workable.

“The proposals received represent thoughtful insight on how to deal with the issue of this Deer Run band of wild horses on the urban edge. Though portions of the proposal might be effective, nothing in the proposals is 100% effective in eliminating the BLM’s liability of having horses in areas they do not belong,” the website said. “Without the removal of this band, complete resolution to the problems will never be achieved.”

Laura Leigh, a photographer and founder of the nonprofit Wild Horse Education, said several residents cried when the horses were removed. She said the BLM had warned advocates not to interfere or they would “face consequences later.”

“Why now?” she asked in an interview with The Times. “There’s no urgency, no need to rush this. Why couldn’t these officials have spent a bit more time to find another solution rather than take them off the range?”

At day’s end Wednesday, only two horses remained. One mare was still in the BLM trap eating hay, as a decoy for the last remaining mare, Jantzen said.

“To see this old mare outside – she waited for all the other horses to be trapped,” she said.

“At the end of the day, she stood there, smelling the air, looking around the range. You could almost feel what she was thinking: This is the last time for me. People here are inconsolable.”

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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
15 Comments
  • Robynne Catheron

    Despicable, hateful BLM. There are two things WE can do right now: call Neil Kornze, Acting Director of the BLM at 202-208-3801, and ask him to return those six horses; and Mary Falling, Oklahoma Governor at 918-581-2801 or 405-521-2342, and ask her not to sign the bill on her desk authorizing a slaughter house in her state. Flood their phone lines and answering machines.

    February 28, 2013
  • Janet Schultz

    Laura Leigh was quoted as saying: “… the BLM had warned advocates not to interfere or they would “face consequences later.” Who at BLM said that to her? what other consequences? That one comment ruined an otherwise painful informed article. She is flaming the outrage and frustration – as BLM’s mouthpiece? Why is she even asked for her opinion if that was the best she could do? The paper should have met with Craig Downer as well.

    February 28, 2013
  • S.Deacon

    All these disgusting people want to do is sell off our protected mustangs for meat for the soul-less foreigners that eat horses and dogs! That damned Ken Salazar and his cretin friend, the kill buyer he sold our horses to are damn crooks and deserve to rot in Hell for slaughtering our mustangs! It is all about power and who can do what they want and no one can stop them. They will be stopped .. one day ..

    February 28, 2013
  • judye michaels

    The BLM is literally ruining our country. What difference would six horses have made, particularly since people wanted to care for them. Why waste taxpayers’ money on the roundup and holding of them…. maybe to sneak them to slaughter??? Isn’t it Tom Davis who would be interested in them???
    BLM DISGUSTS ME!!!!!!!

    February 28, 2013
  • Tracey Williamson

    This is not about those horses bothering anything…. this is a plan that has been set in motion to slaughter all the wild horses, then raise horses for slaughter….its all about greed. Our government, farm bureaus and the USDA are all working together to make it happen. The cattlemen hate wild horses, they want all public lands to run cattle…

    March 1, 2013
    • Karen

      Tracy, you are absolutely right. What chance do the citizens of Roswell NM have in stopping the horse slaughterhouse the USDA is going to approve in their city??

      March 1, 2013
  • ClipClopToday

    The reason is The BLM is collecting. Bills have already been passed to legalizing the sale of wild horses to outside the normal adoption channels to ‘friends’ for as low as $10 who then sell them to slaughter. Now that they are pushing for slaughter in the US again.. these 50k wild, drug free horses will bring in top price for some politicians and their friends. Those heading the BLM will be raking in a nice padded pension. How much better does it get? Horses raised free on public lands, rounded up and stored by the thousands with tax payers money, sold cheap to a friend and sold high for slaughter. Politician’s dream machine.

    March 1, 2013
  • Valerie Wehmueller

    I don’t like to “hate”, but, I DO hate the BLM, & our government that hired them, gave them their “jobs” & orders, pays them for their blatant animal abuses, & lets them continue their relentless pursuit with no restraints, limitations, or restrictions, oh, &, lets them get away with their mayhem without having to pay the consequences! We need to kick the whole “darn” lot of them out of office. How can we not stop them? I really don’t get it. If enough people acted on their feelings, the BLM & their round-ups/gathers, WOULD be a thing of the past! We have to go in there & take charge, this IS our country!

    March 1, 2013
  • sherriey

    this hurts my heart! i sit here in tears.
    why? why? why?

    March 1, 2013
  • I would like to see this herd kept together. Any chance of that?
    Freaking out of control gov. That is why the Constitution provides for a “Well regulated militia.”

    March 1, 2013
  • apatchett

    This is so sad and disturbing. I wish there was something I could do to help get them back where they belong.

    March 1, 2013
  • cjwoof947

    Very interesting info J Schultz and J Finch… what is this info based on and who is it that compose the growing numbers?

    March 9, 2013
  • Brenda

    We live in WI….In 2008 & 2009 we were out in Carson City to visit relative & vaca….We saw these wild mustangs both years…..
    The 2nd year this band came right up to us..(off road)…The stallion checked us out then proceeded to let 2 foals then 2 white mares…a couple bays……These amazing horses let me/daughter pet them…they nuzzled…
    Found pics yest on fb…later going thru 100’s of pics..we found “our” herd……only to find out w/ a little research that they were not FREE anymore……This is disgusting! How can the BLM do this? Complaints? One from over 2 yrs ago….& no accidents or near misses reported for over 2 yrs! The community offered to build a fence so at least they could stay in their environment…….Why take away a part of history?! How can it be profittable for them to keep 20,000 horses in holding pens…Just disrespectful to Mother Nature & the spirit of these beautiful “American” Wild Mustangs……very sad..

    March 13, 2013