HINES, Ore. – The Bureau of Land Management's Burns District announced Wednesday it plans to conduct an emergency helicopter gather of about 220 wild horses on part of a herd management area in Harney County, starting next Monday, due to an excessive population and severe drought in the area.
"An excessive horse population coupled with severe drought conditions has resulted in an inadequate supply of water and forage to sustain animal health through the remainder of the summer," the agency said. About 220 horses are planned for removal.
The Wild-Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 gives BLM the direction for protecting and overseeing wild horses and burros on public lands. In managing these animals, the BLM said it "works to maintain a thriving ecological balance that supports healthy horses on healthy rangelands."
The Palomino Buttes HMA is located about 15 miles southwest of Burns It is divided by fencing into the Weaver Lake and Palomino Buttes use areas.
Currently, all but three water holes within the Palomino Buttes use area are dry. Of these three waterholes, it is anticipated that only one location has enough water to last through August. On July 1, BLM began hauling water to two of these diminishing waterholes to sustain animal health until an emergency gather was possible. An estimated 250 horses water at the three locations.
The Appropriate Management Level – the number of horses the range can sustainably support in conjunction with other animals and resource uses – for the entire Palomino Buttes HMA area is 32 to 64 horses, BLM said. The current population is approximately 427.
Animals gathered from the range will be transported to BLM’s Off-Range Wild Horse and Burro Corrals in Hines and prepared for adoption or sale into private care or long-term holding in Midwestern states.
The public is welcome to observe the gather. Details on viewing opportunities are available here: https://go.usa.gov/xF68q. Supporting National Environmental Policy Act documents for this gather are available on the BLM’s ePlanning web site at https://go.usa.gov/xFeAK.
The gather will likely last less than one week, though the BLM said exact start and end dates will be determined by the contractor’s availability.