Calico Complex Roundup & Rescue: Dec 29, 2009 - Feb 4, 2010

Calico Complex Roundup:

Between December 29, 2009 and February 4, 2010, The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conducted one of the largest and deadliest helicopter roundups of wild horses in U.S. history. The location was the Calico Mountains Complex, located in the remote and pristine Black Rock Desert in northwest Nevada. By the time it ended, 1,922 horses had lost their freedom. The number of horses captured was 600 fewer than targeted, raising questions about the accuracy of BLM’s population estimate of 3,040 horses in the five Herd Management Areas that comprise the complex.

Eyewitness Reports:

Calico Mountain Roundup by Craig Downer

BLM Wild Horse Roundup at Calico Ends

Press Release:

New Report on BLM’s Calico Mustang Roundup Highlights True Costs to Wild Horses and Taxpayers

More than 100 horses died either as a direct result from the helicopter stampede, or in the aftermath during transport or at holding facility in Fallon, Nevada. In addition to the deaths, 30+ pregnant mares aborted their late-term fetuses, raising the death toll even higher

The poor little foal pictured  was euthanized after suffering from lack of nutrition when his mother could not produce milk for him. Since the agency is not recording births of foals or the fates of these foals until they reach several months of age, the public would not have known about the fate of this little horse, had he not been noticed by public observers visiting the facility.

                                                                           Photo By Laura Leigh, Wild Horse Education

For more information on the Calico horses in holding, click here.


In July of 2010, Return to Freedom placed the winning bids for eight of the Calico stallions in an online BLM auction. Ten additional stallions were acquired a month later from BLM after Return to Freedom learned that some intact Calico studs remained in BLM holding pens. In September, a nineteenth stallion, a gorgeous senior buckskin, was rescued by Return to Freedom after he was shipped to Oklahoma but declined by the buyer who purchased him in the online auction.

Nearly one year after the brutal roundup, the last 74 of the captured Calico horses were scheduled for transport to long-term holding facilities in the Midwest until  Return to Freedom American Wild Horse Sanctuary offered to take them in instead. Return to Freedom already cares for 19 stallions captured from the same areas as the mares and will reunite these wild horses and recreate family bands for them.

Eyewitness Reports:

FAQ on Proposal for a Wild Horse Preserve at Calico

Captured Calico Mares Beginning New Life, Thanks to Return to Freedom

Return To Freedom Rescue Update: Calico Stallion "Bucky" and His Friend Back Home in Nevada

Captured Calico Mustang Stallions Begin New Life Thanks To Return to Freedom

18 Captured Calico Stallions, Mare and Foal Start New Life, Thanks to Return to Freedom

Press Releases:

74 Rescued Calico Mustang Mares Begin Their Journey to Return to Freedom

Historic partnership between Nevada rancher and California wild horse sanctuary offers hope for captured Nevada mustangs

Media Coverage:

Horse sanctuary rescues 73 mares from Nevada