What is happening at the Bureau of Land Management’s Nevada Palomino Valley Holding Facility?
There have been many reports lately about questionable actions of the Bureau of Land Management and its contractors, such as selling horses out of long term holding to known kill buyers Joe Simon and Musick Livestock (“Wild Horses Sold to Killbuyer”) or allowing individuals such as Tom Davis to purchase 1700 horses without questioning where all these horses would end up. (“Wild Horses to Slaughter”).
Animals’ Angels latest Freedom of Information Act request only increased our concerns over the BLM’s treatment of wild horses and burros. Among other things, the BLM’s Palomino Valley Facility in Nevada seems to be drastically under-reporting the actual number of horses and burros that have died under its “care.”
The National Wild Horse and Burro Center at Palomino Valley is the largest BLM holding facility in the country. The facility, located near Reno, serves as the primary holding area for wild horses and burros rounded up from the public lands in Nevada as well as neighboring states. The facility has 160 acres and according to the BLM website, can hold a maximum of 2,000 horses and burros at any given time.
In order to deal with the eventuality of equine deaths, the NV Bureau of Land Management has an ongoing contract with a rendering plant, Nevada By-Products (d/b/a Reno Rendering), to process the horses and burros from the Palomino Valley Holding Facility.
According to the contract paperwork, Nevada By-Products was chosen over landfill disposal due to cost effectiveness and the fact that “Due to the sensitive nature of the public to the wild horse and burro program, it is necessary to dispose of these large animals as quickly and discretely (sic) as possible and Reno Rendering fulfills these requirements.”
It should also be noted that in the contract specifications, the NV BLM estimated approximately 200 adults and 100 foals would need to be sent for rendering each year.
In addition to the contract itself, our FOIA request obtained all records of deceased horses and burros sent from the BLM holding facility to the rendering plant from January 1, 2010 through May 31, 2012.
During that timeframe the BLM itself reported in the official Palomino Valley Mortality Detail Report that only 241 horses and burros died at the Palomino Valley and 50 at the Fallon facility. However, the records from the rendering plant tell quite a different story.
According to the Nevada By-Product invoices for that same time period, a startling 577 dead horses were received from the Palomino Valley Facility. This is a shocking difference of 336 animals (286 animals if the Nevada By-Product invoices do include the Fallon horses), a number simply too large to ignore.
Compounding our concerns, an inordinate number of foals and colts were among the deceased. “Newborns” or “babies” were also specifically noted on several of the rendering plant receipts. A total of 332 foals and colts were included in the rendering plant invoices. In March 2011 alone, 10 horses and 64 colts died and were shipped to Nevada By-Products.
It begs the questions: Why the discrepancy? Why are so many young horses dying? What would the BLM holding facility gain by under-reporting these figures?
The BLM’s stance all along is that its roundups are humane. On the face of it, we already know this is blatantly untrue. Roundups are done via helicopter, panicking the wild horses and burros and, as a result, causing undue injury. Wild horses and burros will, as a matter of instinct, startle when put under stress, yet the BLM continues to ignore the voices who are advocating for helicopter-free and humane roundups, or better still, to end the roundups altogether.
The disparity in the death rates reported by the BLM would seem to indicate many more horses and burros are dying at their facilities than they would have us believe.
This newly uncovered mortality discrepancy casts yet another dark shadow on the BLM and is another sign that more seems to be going on than meets the eye. With the number of stories regarding questionable sales to kill buyers, cruelty and unexplained record keeping piling up from various outlets, a question we should all ask is: What doesn’t the BLM want the public to know?
Animals’ Angels would like to thank Debbie Coffey for her assistance with this investigation!