Wild horse roundups: Judge bans helicopters after pilot buzzes exhausted mustang (VIDEO)

Dryhead roundup - Elyse Gardner photo-1.jpg
Photo by Elyse Gardner
Chasing wild horses with helicopters has long been a controversial but accepted method in the roundups of mustangs by the Bureau of Land Management. But a federal judge has blasted the BLM after seeing video of a contract pilot hovering over an exhausted horse and appearing to strike the horse with the skid of his chopper, nudging it onward.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben declined to stop the Triple B roundup of more than 1,200 horses in eastern Nevada, one of the BLM's largest roundups this summer. But he granted a temporary restraining order sought by activists, who claim the roundup has been inhumane and caused the deaths of at least a dozen horses. McKibben banned the specific conduct by pilots that he saw on a video clip presented by plaintiff Laura Leigh, vice president of the Wild Horse Freedom Federation -- images that were in direct contradiction of statements by BLM officials describing how the roundup was conducted.

"I am deeply concerned," Judge McKibben said, "that declarations presented to the Court [by the BLM] do not address the issue, but simply deny wrongdoing."

Attorneys for the government say the BLM won't use helicopters in the final stages of this roundup, which is almost finished. But Leigh and others have hailed McKibben's ruling as a significant step toward recognizing their claims that the roundups can be cruel and dangerous. (Read Leigh's organization's account of the ruling here.) In the video, seen below, the pilot draws within inches of a single horse and seems to be driving the animal away from the pursuit riders rather than toward them. Whether the copter actually strikes the horse is disputed, but McKibben ruled that the action was "dangerous and unreasonable" and violated wild horse protection legislation passed in 1971.

The BLM leadership and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar have been the target of criticism from Congress over the costly roundups, which wild horse groups maintain are unnecessary and poorly supervised. BLM director Robert Abbey has insisted that the lands can't support the herds' current population, but has pledged to reform the program.

Here's the video.

More from our News archive: "Wild horses: Plan to sterilize Wyoming herds triggers protests."

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3 comments
crosswind
crosswind

I'm with Simone Netherlands ALL THE WAY... this is CRUEL, especially when these mares are pregnant and they run foals to death and any of them up steam ROCKY embankments. Some don't' even make it along the way. But, you don't hear that part of the story. They are left in the fields or destroyed by BLM if they can't make it. Very sad. Many end up going to slaughter for humans in European Countries. Let's stop removing our wild mustangs to extinction for International luxury foods. What they don't realize is many of these mustangs and horses sent to slaughter are on meds and de-wormers (toxic to humans taken internally and not fit for animals fed as human consumption). When will USA inform the European Union honestly of the toxins in the meat & cruelty in how they rounded them up?

Flash Bailbonds
Flash Bailbonds

America’s horses are under attack by commercial interests, which are supported and aligned with the BLM, a governmental agency that hides behind vague statutory language and turns words like “protect” and “preserve” into “capture,” “imprison,” and “kill.”

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