The sometimes-controversial topic of helicopter use in rounding up wild horses will be up for discussion with federal land managers at a public hearing scheduled for later this month.
Animal rights groups and wild-horse advocates have criticized the practice in the past as cruel and dangerous to the easily spooked equines, although Bureau of Land Management spokesperson Maxine Shane said few complaints have surfaced in recent years.
The BLM uses helicopters to gather horse population numbers as well as to gather the horses themselves. The practice has become routine since the passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, said BLM Nevada Director Bob Abbey, "and most people agree that careful and proper helicopter use is efficient and humane."
The bureau holds a public hearing on the use of helicopters and trucks, used for transporting rounded up animals, each year to compile suggestions on how to manage animals on public lands. This year's meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. May 17 at 1340 Financial Blvd. in Reno.
Since July, the BLM has rounded up 7,616 horses, and is aiming to gather at least 884 more by the end of September, with a goal of gathering another 4,000 the following year. This could get the statewide wild-horse population close to the agency's target of around 14,000.
A population count before the last several roundups pegged the number of wild horses in Nevada at about 19,000. The BLM hasn't yet released its count numbers for this year, but Shane said the number should be substantially lower.
Wild-horse advocates who have long been protesting government roundups have been joined in the past few months by animal welfare groups and celebrities, after a measure passed through Congress cleared the way for older wild horses that were not adopted after three tries to be sold to slaughter, a previously banned practice.
Herd Management Areas where the BLM expects to use helicopters over the next year and a half, either to roundup horses or gather census information, include the Buck and Bald Complex, Simpson Park Range, Blue Wing Complex, McGee Mountains, Dogskin Mountains, Pilot Mountain, Hot Springs Mountain, Paymaster, Tobin/North Stillwater, Monte Cristo/Sand Springs Complex and the Saulsbury/Monitor Complex.
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Voice your opinion
What: Public hearing on the use of helicopters and motor vehicles in horse roundups
When: 10 a.m. May 17
Where: BLM state office, 1340 Financial Blvd, Reno