Public Alarmed at BLM’s Surprise Start to Castrate Mustangs as Death Toll Rises in Nevada Facility


Media Contacts:                

Makendra Silverman 

Tel: 719-351-8187

Anne Novak

Tel: 415-531-8454

For Immediate Release

New report on equine stress released as Foundation denied access to view the captured Calico wild horses in Nevada 

Reno, NV (April 23, 2010)—Unexpected castrating of captured male mustangs, four years old and younger, by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) started behind closed doors on Friday, April 16th in the Fallon holding pens of Nevada. Many depressed horses with swollen scrotums have been observed. The public understood that the castration of the Calico wild horses would not occur until the In Defense of Animals court case was heard in May as there is a possibility of returning the wild horses to their protected public rangelands. For months, requests for daily monitoring by humane observers have been repetitively denied at the new private facility contracted by the BLM. Now a request to visit the feedlot-style facility by Executive Director of the Cloud Foundation and Emmy-Award winning filmmaker, Ginger Kathrens, has been denied as well. Outraged members of the public will hold protests in multiple cities because of the BLM’s lack of transparency and cruel roundups. The first rally is planned for Sunday, April 25th near Las Vegas at  Red Rocks Park from 12:00- 2:00 p.m.

“BLM seems determined to create a missing generation of mustangs” states Terri Farley, an award-winning children’s author and a plaintiff in the Calico case. “In their care, 86 horses have died, more than 40 mares have aborted their late term foals and now they’ve castrated an undisclosed number of young stallions.” 

On April 19th Ginger Kathrens, was denied access to visit the private wild horse holding facility in Fallon, Nevada. BLM holds fast to its policy of restricting viewing to Sundays for a few hours— a time when the horses are not being handled by the BLM. An email to Kathrens from BLM Deputy Division Chief of the Wild Horse and Burro Program, Dean Bolstad, he stated in part “The facility (Fallon) is not staffed adequately to host visitation on a daily basis or upon demand.  Each time we conduct a tour, staff have to travel from Reno or Palomino Valley.” 

Kathrens responded that,  “Since visitation is denied except for a brief two hours on Sundays, it causes your ‘management’ practices to appear less transparent. Consequently, this restriction/limitation ends-up being counter productive to your educational and public relations efforts. I hope that this practice will change in the near future so people such as myself can fully view the facility and the horses — and feel like we’re invited and informed partners in the care of our national wild horse treasures.”

According to a newly released report by Bruce Nock, PhD entitled “Wild Horses, The Stress of Captivitythe deaths and abortions can be attributed in part to the sheer stress of the roundup. This report was released in conjunction with BLM Calico Complex Roundup:  A Case Study of a Broken System for Horses and Taxpayers a report by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC).

Dr. Bruce Nock, Associate Professor at the Washington University School of Medicine and expert on the physiological effects of stress on animals, wrote: “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say, as gathers [roundups] are routinely done in the USA, if a wild horse doesn’t die straight off from the immediate devastation and commotion, it compromises him/her physically and mentally, putting him on a path of accelerated deterioration.” 

sand colic

Even during the limited once a week visits, members of the public have observed the horses being fed moldy hay, which can cause serious illness and death to horses of all ages. The feeding of the moldy hay was noted and photographed on the automatic feeding trucks most recently on Sunday, April 18. Other photographs underscore the lack of cover for the horses, the extreme dust during frequent windy periods, and the presence of sand and even small rocks in the hay being fed to the once wild and free roaming Calico horses. A serious illness known as sand colic results from ingesting sand and has been known to be fatal in many cases. 

“The reports we get from citizens able to get in to see and document the captive wild horses during the once a week staged tours are awful. This shameful taxpayer funded nightmare behind closed doors must stop!” states Kathrens. 

The Calico Mountain Complex wild horse roundup has drawn intense public attention worldwide.  BLM went forward despite historic public opposition and a recommendation from US District Federal District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman to postpone the roundup. Despite the increased scrutiny, the roundup has been a disaster for the nearly 2000 federally protected mustangs. In late December government contracted helicopters took to the air, rounding up every horse they could find on the vast 500,000 acre Calico range—an area designated principally for wild horse use since 1971 but grazed by thousands of privately-owned, government-subsidized cattle. The roundup and short-term holding of the Calico mustangs has cost at least $1.3 million to American taxpayers while causing injury and death to hundreds of wild horses.

The 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act placed the authority for managing wild horses and burros primarily in the hands of the BLM. 54,000 wild horses and burros comprised 303 herds throughout the West when BLM conducted the first population census in 1974. Since that time, over 100 herds have been completely eliminated and the current range population is believed to be less than half what it was in 1974. This roundup and removal policy is fast leading to the extinction of wild horses and burros in the West. 

 “At the same time the BLM strips federal land of wild horses and burros it is supposed to be protecting, it props up a public lands grazing program that costs American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year” states Rob Pliskin, a BLM volunteer and wild horse supporter. 

36,000 wild horses are currently in holding facilities instead of roaming in the lands designated for their use. Over 24 million acres have been withdrawn from wild horse and burro use. The BLM “welfare ranching” practices continue—allowing the land to be leased primarily to corporations at minimum fees of $1.35 per cow/calf pair or per five head of sheep per month along with land leases to extractive and energy industries on Western public lands. 

Links of interest: 


In Defense of Animals, et al v. Salazar case

Las Vegas Rally, April 25th

Free Roaming Wild Horses and Burros Act of 1971

Wild Horses: Management or Stampede to Extinction? Reno Gazette Sunday Special by Frank X. Mullen.

CNN Report on Nevada Roundup with Jane Valez-Mitchell

Americans Want to Stop the Roundups in Der Spiegle

News Story on Calico, rising death toll & skewed numbers from George Knapp (KLAS- Las Vegas):

BLM Daily Reports from Calico Roundup/Fallon Holding:

American Herds – “What’s Left?”

American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign

Humane Observer blog

Photos of moldy hay:

Photos of horse post-castration:

After campaigning for Obama, Sheryl Crow at odds over his Administration’s wild-horse plan (Associated Press)

Mestengo. Mustang. Misfit.  America’s Disappearing Wild Horses – A History

Frequently Asked Questions on Wild Horses 


Stampede to Oblivion: An Investigate Report from Las Vegas Now  (   

Unified Moratorium letter and signatories

Roundup Schedule- updated February 2010 

Photos, video and interviews available from:

The Cloud Foundation

719-633-3842 ~

The Cloud Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to the preservation and protection of wild horses and burros on our Western public lands with a focus on protecting Cloud’s herd in the Pryor Mountains of Montana.

107 S. 7th St. – Colorado Springs, CO 80905