RENO - An Arizona congressman is lashing out against federal land managers' emergency roundup of wild horses in Northern Nevada, saying it poses a risk to the animals because it's taking place during the height of foaling season.
Rep. Raul Grijalva said the operation in the Jackson Mountains northwest of Winnemucca involves the use of a helicopter to drive horses for miles to corrals in hot weather, and the Bureau of Land Management should have considered "less dangerous alternatives" to remove the animals from the range.
Grijalva, the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, maintains the agency is conducting the roundup "under cover of an emergency," but the situation facing horses around the Jackson Mountains does not meet the BLM's own criteria for an emergency.
"June is the height of foaling season, meaning that BLM will be stampeding tiny foals, heavily pregnant mares and other horses that may already be compromised by lack of adequate water and forage," Grijalva, D-Ariz., wrote in a letter sent Thursday to BLM acting Director Mike Pool.
"Please be sure that I am watching this foaling season closely and hope to see BLM make a good-faith effort to protect wild horse population health, as your own policies mandate."
BLM spokeswoman JoLynn Worley said her agency is working closely with the contract helicopter pilot to ensure the gather is conducted in the most humane manner possible .
"Certainly, there's always a risk of driving a pregnant horse. We've had some miscarriages in the past," Worley said. "Certainly, having young foals run and follow a mare for long distances can be hard on their hooves. These are things we're aware of, and we're trying to mitigate those issues as best we can."
She said while BLM policy is to not round up horses during foaling season, a lack of forage because of the drought justifies their removal from the range a month early. Foaling season lasts from March 1 to June 30.
The agency plans to remove 630 of an estimated 930 horses in the Jackson Mountains Herd Management Area.