There is a lot of focus right now on the short term holding facility, Palomino Valley Center or PVC, north of Reno NV. We feel that it is important that complete information be given to the public about BLM short-term holding facilities and PVC. One can focus on one moment (like the images at roundups) but there is a process that occurs and circumstances surrounding each event. At a roundup the issue will be with the Herd Management Area (HMA): what are the factors that led to the roundup operation, what are the justifications, how is the operation conducted, and who is responsible. Once you know these factors, each event can be told in context. For example, a horse was hit with a chopper, but that is not all that happened at Triple B roundup. Wild Horse Education (WHE) has often been told that we give the public too many words and need to find the “sound bite.” But the “sound bite” is not the story, nor does it give the public a clear picture of all of the issues that exist and where the root causes lie that can be changed. Sound bites simply train a public to live in sound bites… and there is far too much of that.
So today’s “big picture” story is Palomino Valley Center (PVC) and BLM short term holding.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Program can be seen in two separate sections. The program that “manages” wild horses and burros in the wild (we use that word lightly as very little hard data exists to justify any ongoing decisions being made on the range) and the system of warehousing animals after they are removed from the range. The roundup is like ground zero between these two major facets of the BLM wild horse and burro program. Each exists in relative ignorance of the other. Once a horse leaves the range it is a number, just inventory, with very little regard given to where that horse came from or how it got there. Very few range managers are aware of what happens in the holding facilities and they are even unaware that the animals are subject to the dangers of sale authority (which means they can legally and illegally end up in slaughter).
Over the last forty years the BLM has managed wild horses more akin to a livestock operation than anything that remotely resembles “wild.” Populations are kept below genetic viability, no migratory ranges are known, many areas have failed to even do genetic testing, and nothing is really known about these animals, though we know these patterns in elk, antelope and deer. Original data on boundaries and surveys is non-existent (WHE has tried and tried to request this information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and have basically been told there is no archive and we must wait to see if funding becomes available to create one). Range management is another subject entirely and we will write about it again and again in the future… but needless to say this bungling system of petty kings ruling public land based on special interests called “range management,” has literally come to crisis. We have more wild horses in captivity than exist in the wild… perhaps as much as twice the number behind bars than on the open range.
When wild horses and burros leave public land they go to “short-term” holding. Short term can however translate into years. The intention was that these “intake” facilities would vaccinate, brand, sort, adopt and ship horses to long term facilities…. without ever thinking that the warehouse would fill up if the process did not change. (The few thousand animals sold each year by the truckload out the back door of holding is not enough to make room for the over 10,000 wild horses a year pulled from the range in the last four years).
Now to Nevada “Crush”
BLM webpage: The National Wild Horse and Burro Center at Palomino Valley (PVC) is the largest BLM preparation and adoption facility in the country and serves as the primary preparation center for wild horses and burros gathered from the public lands in Nevada and other near-by states. Nevada is home to more than 50 percent of the Nation’s wild horses and burros with approximately 83 herd management areas throughout the state. (capacity is about 2000 animals)
Let that statement sink in for a minute… the truth is in Nevada there are districts that have more HMA’s than any other state. Nevada is wild horse country. There is so much more to say on the history of the program in Nevada… but again, another story.
In 2009, due to escalating roundups, PVC could no longer handle the incredible numbers of wild horses being taken from the range. BLM contracted another facility that has had several names in the last three years; Fallon facility, Broken Arrow and Indian lakes. The Facility is the Broken Arrow on Indian Lakes Road, in Fallon NV.
BLM website: The Indian Lakes Road Short-Term Holding Facility is located at 5676 Indian Lakes Road, Fallon, and is privately owned and operated. About a one and one-half hour drive from Reno, the facility is the BLM’s newest contracted short-term holding facility, and provides care for up to 2,850 excess wild horses that are removed during gathers. The facility encompasses 320 acres and contains 36 large holding pens that are 70,000 square feet per pen and can hold approximately 100 horses safely per pen. The horses are fed an abundance of feed tailored to their needs each day, and a veterinarian routinely inspects the horses and provides necessary medical care. Once preparation for adoption is completed, and the animals have fully transitioned to a diet of domestic feed, they are ready for shipment to adoption venues and may be available to the public for adoption through the BLM’s Adopt-A-Horse or Burro Program.
Please note that for the first time animals are being offered from a facility that has been off-limits to the public. The animals being offered through the BLM internet adoption program there were primarily born at the facility and amount to only a handful of horses. The Broken Arrow is another story for another time….
So right NOW, in this very moment, BLM has in “short-term” facilities nearly 5,000 captive wild horses in Nevada. (Just sit with that one minute…) That does not include the number of sale horses shipped to long term holding, sold or adopted… it is just the “inventory” currently present in the state…. and the horses have nowhere to go.
BLM was not successful in creating new long term facilities or “sanctuaries,” except one. One facility took in horses and that “eco-sanctuary” is now charging admission so you can go see gelded hoses running in a field who were once wild and free to view on public land as PUBLIC horses on the range. The other “eco-sanctuary” , yet to be completed, will actually require that wild horses be removed off the range for use in the sanctuary… and it potentially destroys three entire existing HMAs. Good plan, eh?
PVC, Not Just Numbers
You drive through the gates at PVC. There are a lot of pens filled with a lot of horses and a few burros. But do you know who you are looking at? Do you see them as BLM does as horses with tags on their necks or are you aware of where (and how) they came to the facility? Are you aware that usually at this time of year the pens are relatively empty and beginning to accept horses fresh from roundups again (like every year)? Are you aware that what you are seeing is VERY unusual?
The animals that fill the pens at PVC are animals that were taken from the range June 2012-February 2013. Some of these animals were taken from the range over a year ago and some were born there last summer. Some came off the range in great shape and some came off with backbones showing through winter coats. Some came in as newborns and some came in near the end of their natural lives. Several loads shipped out of PVC over the last year and they were primarily older horses taken in the first part of the 2012 season… for example the older mares and stallions from Jackson Mt. are gone.
The younger horses from Jackson Mt. are still there… over a year now. Many born of Jackson Mt. moms are still there… but mom and dad have shipped. Some Calico Complex horses are there, but remember it is a “Complex” so when tracking their numbers you may be told the animal is from “Black Rock” or “Granite.” The Owyhee horses are also there. As are the Diamonds are there. WHE has tracked many, many of these horses from the range and followed them through their transition into “mans world.” They are not just a number to us.
Jackson horses: last time they were removed from the range in 2007 hundreds of them died in holding from salmonella; this outbreak followed what BLM justified as an “emergency” removal to save the horses’ lives. Jackson horses (Winnemucca District) were again taken under pretense of emergency, an din that event BLM had newborn babies running full tilt in the heat of June. That action prompted WHE to pursue a lawsuit that held BLM to safer parameters for roundups during foaling season after weeks of conversations led nowhere. The lawsuit bought time for the horses in the north of Jackson… newborns taken in July are still at the facility. (The WHE lawsuit is still active with regard to BLM inhumane conduct issues).
Owyhee Horses: The last time the horses from Owyhee were taken WHE was stopped at a roadblock in the desert. We were not allowed to observe a single horse coming out of Owyhee Complex. However, during the most recent removal in 2012, we observed horrific conduct that included intense repetitive hotshot use, babies run to literal exhaustion, and horses run through barbed wire. WHE filed another lawsuit against the Winnemucca BLM District and very strong language from the court was put forward against such conduct. Many Owyhee horses are at PVC (The Owyhee lawsuit is still active)
Diamond Horses: These animals (the “on HMA” horses on the Battle Mountain side) came in with backbones showing through winter coats. WHE monitored the horses the year prior to removal on this range, which has been over utilized by domestic livestock for decades. The population was compromised. Many of the Diamonds came down with strangles in PVC after capture. There is some very funky stuff happening NOW on that range… but that is another story.
There are several other ranges with representation still at PVC. Most of the studs and older mares have shipped. Diamond, Owyhee and Calico mares are giving birth…
Issues at PVC
Housing large numbers of wild horses creates challenges. Those challenges must be met, as much as possible, proactively.
In May WHE reported about issues arising in the population at PVC. The post contains an explanation of the issues if you click the links in the text:
Three highly infectious conditions—strangles, papilloma virus, and ringworm—have been documented in the population currently housed at the BLM Palomino Valey Center (PVC) wild horse and burro holding facility north of Reno. Although none of the conditions require emergency response, the conditions do require attention. READ MORE HERE>>>
As the temperature rose during the heatwave we had in Nevada, much public attention has now shifted to the threat of the heat to the horses at the facility. Like most BLM facilities there is no shade option for the horses. A shade option could be facilitated by simply extending the western edge of each fence line up by 4-5 ft. with an opaque covering. This would simulate shade by a tree line in the hottest time of the day and could be removed in winter if snow is an issue, or wind. Constructing an open sided shelter with a slopped edge that leads out of the pen would allow shade in winter and run off of snow outside the enclosure, minimizing risk. A shade solution could be found. Adding additional water sources would decrease the crowds at the single sources and allow less dominate animals more opportunity to drink. The sprinklers do not “scare” the majority of these animals that have been in captivity for some time, but there are so few of them (sprinklers) that dominant animals get the play time (sprinklers also have the ability to reduce boredom).
HOWEVER there is no mass of animals writhing in heat exhaustion at the facility. There is no mass die off from heat-related illness. One horse died of what appears to have been colic, it may have been heat related. The horse was documented in distress on the hottest day of the heatwave, July 1, and no staff was notified. A horse (not confirmed as the same horse, no tag ID) was dead the next morning. Is shade an issue? Yes it is. There are some hot, bored, captive horses and illness is still present at the facility. We are back to seasonal temperatures. But there is no sign of mass heat exhaustion.
Hoof care rotations have begun again at the facility. Strangles stopped the last rotation. Someone said there was an issue with the chute, but we have it on good authority (facility manager) that strangles popped back up. In many of the adult populations strangles has abated and hoof care is again part of the rotation. How long will these horses be there and is the rotation enough? The horses will be there for some time and the hoof care exists, but most likely will not be adequate.
Strangles is again surfacing at PVC as colts (particularly from moms that may be shedders of the virus) begin to age and wean off moms milk. According to the Manager at PVC: “Some of these newborns are starting to get strangles as they lose the immunity from the mare’s milk. We have been closely watching and doctoring as needed.”
What To Do?
BLM needs to begin to address issues. BLM needs to stop running a reactive program that only gets proactive when kicked hard enough. Could no one foresee that housing animals for this long at a facility not equipped to do so would create issues? Could no one foresee that a heat wave (during any summer month in drought years) could create a need for shade or cooling? Could no one foresee that a compromised population (Diamonds) might be more susceptible to disease and would need to be isolated from the general population to avoid contracting and spreading disease? Could no one foresee that running a blitzkrieg removal operation full steam would lead to a crisis while no change in range management is even discussed? Are policy makers at BLM like Walmart clock watchers punching in and out and marking time without questioning anything?
BLM needs serious reform top to bottom. In order to stop the holding crisis we need to change management on the range. In order to change management on the range we need data that is, and has been, severely lacking.
But for today, right now, we must take care of the wild horses and burros in captivity. We need to bolster adoption events. We need to remember the horses are not numbers… they came from somewhere and each population is unique and requires handling accordingly. Shade? WTF is the big deal BLM? Or do you like that people are not asking the tougher questions… like where are you going to put all the horses you are planning on taking off next? Are you going to do anything with the NAS report besides using it for dart practice? Are you ever going to discipline those that signed the sale order to Tom Davis? Is this the year you propose the “final solution?”
Oh.. and if you are interested there was a fire at Ridgecrest holding today in the bone yard… http://www.ridgecrestca.com/article/20130710/NEWS/130719981
Please help us, help them. WHE is dedicated to fighting for protections from abuse, slaughter and extinction and to that end spends more time in the field and in the courtroom than any other organization.
Pictures below were taken this week by Jessica Gardner this past week at PVC.