BLM seeks ideas on how to protect wild horses from heat deaths

RENO — In response to an outcry from advocacy groups, federal land managers plan to hold a public workshop to solicit ideas on how to protect wild horses from excessive heat at a major holding facility near Reno.

Bureau of Land Management officials said they’re also consulting with two experts on how to deal with the situation at the agency’s Palomino Valley National Wild Horse and Burro Center, 20 miles northeast of Reno in Northern Nevada.

No date for the workshop has been set, but BLM officials said it will be held in coming weeks.

“The well-being of the wild horses and burros under BLM’s care is important to us, both on and off the range, and we’re interested in constructive input and dialogue with the public,” said Joan Guilfoyle, chief of the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Division.

Agency officials announced plans for the workshop on Friday, two days after the Humane Society of the United States urged them to immediately install shelter and provide shade for the some 1,800 animals at the facility.

The horses are facing a potentially dangerous situation because of a prolonged period of triple-digit temperatures, said Holly Hazard, a spokeswoman for the Humane Society.

“Wild horses on the range survive severe temperatures by seeking out shade, but the horses in the BLM’s care have no choice but to swelter in the sun,” she said in a statement. “The BLM’s response to the situation — installing a sprinkler system and nothing else — falls short of its responsibility to the horses in its care, and the agency’s defense that the horses can cope in hot temperatures is unacceptable.”

Ann Novak of the advocacy group Protect Mustangs urged Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to step in and ensure protection for the horses.

She said at least three horses could have died as a result of excessive heat at the facility since June 28, but the BLM failed to perform necropsies on two of them to pinpoint the cause of death. A necropsy of the third horse found the cause of death was a respiratory illness, but Novak said hot temperatures could have aggravated the animal’s condition.

“It’s as if they (BLM) don’t want the public to know the truth,” Novak said Saturday as the mercury reached 103 degrees in Reno. “These captive wild horses need emergency shade. Exposing them to another heat wave without shade is cruel.”

But Guilfoyle said no evidence exists that any horses being held at the facility are experiencing life-threatening conditions as a result of high temperatures.

In addition to installing sprinklers in pens in late June, she said, the BLM also ensures the horses have a continuous supply of water and are fed daily. A veterinarian regularly visits the site, she said.

The facility serves as the primary preparation center for wild horses and burros removed from public lands in Nevada and surrounding states. Horses that aren’t adopted are shipped to government-funded pastures in the Midwest, where they spend the rest of their lives under protections afforded them by federal law.

Nevada is home to over half of the roughly 37,000 wild horses that freely roam the West.