Ft. McDermitt Wild Horse Roundup & Rescue

By Suzanne Roy

Associated Press Photo.

On Tuesday, August 6, 2013, AWHPC learned that the U.S.  Forest Service, a division of the USDA, was planning to use our tax dollars to round up wild horses from the Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Reservation and surrounding public lands in Northern Nevada and transport them to a livestock auction frequented by kill buyers. The Forest Service entered into a backroom deal to conduct this stealth roundup and deliver wild horses to a slaughter auction, despite the fact that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the Obama Administration are opposed to horse slaughter!

After we exposed this arrangement for what it was – a backroom deal to launder wild horses through a tribe to send them to a slaughter auction -- the Forest Service pulled out. But the roundup took place anyway, allegedly by the tribe without federal involvement, although a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) official has acknowledged that she was onsite at the reservation advising tribal wranglers where to find horses on both reservation and BLM lands!

Between August 10 and August 13, approximately 470 horses – nearly 40% of whom were unbranded – were captured and delivered to the Fallon Livestock Exchange, where they were scheduled to be put up for sale to the highest bidder on August 17. The number of horses captured was far fewer than the 700-1,000 the FS and tribe were aiming to capture with federal assistance. 

Unbranded Ft. McDermitt horses pulled from sale at Fallon Livestock Exchange on Aug. 17, 2013.

On Thursday, August 15, 2013, AWHPC filed a lawsuit to block the sale of unbranded horses, because we believe that these horses are federally-protected wild horses who wandered onto public lands surrounding the reservation from the adjacent BLM Little Owhyee Herd Management Area.

Late Friday night, August 16, U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) barring the sale of unbranded horses at the auction.

On August 17, 2013, the Churchill County Sheriff's Department served the order on the Fallon Livestock Exchange. After a good deal of discussion, representatives from AWHPC and Wild Horse Education were allowed to inspect every pen at the auction and ensured that 149 unbranded horses were pulled from the sale.  Sadly, the auction went on with the branded horses; approximately 169 of the 320 horses sold that day were purchased by kill buyers. Some were bought back by rescue groups after the sale. 

On Wednesday, August 21. Judge Du lifted the restraining order, allowing the Paiute Shoshone Tribe to proceed with the sale of the unbranded horses. What followed was an extraordinary rescue effort that has saved all of the unbranded horses.

Some of the rescued, unbranded horses.

For more information, please see the links provided below.  

August 17, 2013 Auction of Ft. McDermitt Wild Horses

August 24, 2013: Ft. McDermitt Rescue

Press Releases:

Federal Court Lifts TRO on Sale of Wild Horses

Judge Grants TRO to Stop Sale of Wild Horses at NV Slaughter Auction

Lawsuit Filed to Stop Sale of Wild Horses at Slaughter Auction on Saturday

Feds Allow Unbranded, Federally-Protected Wild Horses to be Sent to Slaughter Auction

USDA Postpones Controversial Round Up of Wild Horses for Slaughter

USDA/Forest Service Shuts Down Public Observation at Controversial Wild Horse Roundup; Horses Slated for Slaughter Auction

USDA Shady Plan to Round Up Wild Horses for Slaughter Revealed

Media Coverage:

Activists Keep Nev. Horses from Going to Slaughter, Associated Press

The Truth Behind Horse Round Ups?, HLN

Judge's Ruling Paves Way for Nevada Horse Slaughter, Los Angeles Times

Judge allows Nevada tribe's mustang sale; lifts order blocking auction of 149 with no brands, Associated Press

Wild Horse Chaos, Thanks to Obama, Esquire Magazine

CCSO Keeps Peace at Wild Horse Auction, Nevada Appeal

Lawsuit Stalls Fallon Horse Auction, KOLO-TV

Sale of unbranded horses delayed by judge's order, KRNV & MyNews4.com

Judge Blocks Auction of Unbranded Horses, Associated Press

US Judge Asked to Block Auction of Mustangs, Elko Daily Free Press

Wild Horse Advocate's Lawsuit Seeks to Halt Auction After Roundup, Los Angeles Times

Nevada Wild Mustangs Saved

Activists Keep Nev. Horses from Going to Slaughter

Truth Behind Horse Round-Ups?