BLM avoids necropsy to escape public outcry

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For immediate release

How many wild horses must drop dead in the heat waves before BLM gives them shelter?

RENO, NV (July 20, 2013)–The public is outraged that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) does not provide shelter for the captive wild horses and burros at Palomino Valley Center near Reno, Nevada.  Nevada State Senator Mark Manendo and Anne Novak, executive director of Protect Mustangs warned on June 9th that wild horses would suffer, get sick and could die from heat related illnesses. They called for shade but the BLM refused to take action. In the morning of July 2nd, the Protect Mustangs investigation discovered a branded young wild horse who died during the heat wave.

Protect Mustangs documented the incident with video and photographs. They immediately sought help from several senators and representatives and requested Secretary of Interior, Sally Jewell, bring shade to the trapped mustangs.

“The BLM’s historic disregard for America’s wild horses is a global embarrassment,” states Anne Novak. “We hope the new Secretary of Interior, Sally Jewell, will intervene to bring them shade and call for a moratorium on roundups for population studies, based on science of course. They’re underpopulated on the range now. That’s why they are breeding at a higher rate–to prevent extinction.”

The BLM neglected to perform a necropsy to determine the cause of death for 2 branded young wild horses who died during the last heat wave, on June 30th and July 2nd.

Another death on June 28th could have been due to exposure to high temperatures without access to shade. The wild yearling had a respiratory illness known as strangles that is often occurring at the holding facility. According to the BLM, the wild horse’s death was attributed to strangles but the factor causing death could have been that she was forced to stand in the triple-digit temperatures which aggrivated her condition–ultimately causing her death.

“If a horse has strangles, its immune system is being compromised,” explains Dr. Lester Castro Friedlander, BA. DVM, President of Citizens Against Equine Slaughter. “When there is a heat wave, the horse’s body becomes dehydrated and the major organs try to keep the body in a stable condition, but then it can not fight the bacterial infection. High temperatures increase the death rate of horses with strangles, due to a chain reaction of major organs being compromised.”

All the branded mustangs that were recorded to have died were female: one was a 3 year old and the others were yearlings.

Currently the deaths of all young unbranded wild horses and burros are not counted at the BLM facilities. The BLM’s lack of accountability is raising concern amongst elected officials and members of the public.

“Our investigation uncovered the dead branded yearling during the heat wave but the BLM avoided performing a necropsy,” states Anne Novak, executive director of Protect Mustangs. “It’s as if they don’t want the public to know the truth. Why won’t they let the public know how many young mustangs have died? Why are they avoiding transparency?”

“I can’t believe they didn’t do a necropsy to find out what the animals died from during the heat wave,” says Dr. Lester Castro Friedlander, BA. DVM, and President of Citizens Against Equine Slaughter. ”Due to the high temperatures there is a very good possibility the horses died due to heat related conditions. By not doing the necropsy the cause of death is “unknown” and they avoid public outcry.”

Despite the BLM’s lack of transparency, today protestors gathered in Carson City to demand shelter for the wild horses and burros captive in pens.

Due to public outcry from wild horse advocates and groups, the BLM announced it is consulting PhD.s from UC Davis to determine if wild horses prefer shade and to determine the environmental conditions at Palomino Valley Center. The BLM is also as holding an open forum requesting public input on how the BLM can best care for the horses at Palomino Valley. Still no emergency shade has been brought in.

Another heat wave is hitting Reno this weekend but the BLM still clings to the belief that it’s OK to treat native wild horses and burros like something on a feedlot waiting to be slaughtered.

The public is encouraged to meet with their elected officials around the country and ask for them to intervene to bring emergency shade to the captive wild horses.

“These captive wild horses need emergency shade,” explains Novak. “Exposing them to another heat wave without shade is cruel.”

Protect Mustangs is circulating a petition for emergency shade on

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Media Contacts:

Anne Novak, 415.531.8454

Kerry Becklund, 510.502.1913

Photos, video and interviews available upon request

Links of interest:

BLM’s wild horse and burro program looks to community for ideas at workshop:

Captive wild horses need relief from heat says HSUS

Captive wild horses need shade, advocates say

How many foals are dying after roundups?:

BLM’s email revealing they are not counting the unbranded dead amongst the 37 dead mustangs at the Nevada facility

NPR: Fertility drug, nature, better than horse roundups

Information on native wild horses:

Wild-horse advocates: Rallies held in 50 states to drum up opposition to roundups, slaughter–Wild-Horses-Rallies

Animals Angels investigative report:

Palomino Valley Center:

Protect Mustangs’ press releases:

Protect Mustangs in the news:


4 horses died during the last heat wave but only 3 deaths (A,C,D) could be related to the heat wave. (see email from BLM below). Strangles is a respiratory illness (Equine Distemper). Horses with repiratory illness have a higher chance of death when enduring a heat wave, because they are already having difficulty breathing and the heat aggrivates that.

BLM’s Debbie Collins responds to Anne Novak’s email:


So, I am listing a response to the specific questions you submitted to Jeb below:1.  How many unbranded foals, etc. have died from June 27 to July? 

Jeb has already provided you a response to this, but at this time no records are kept on unbranded animals that die.


3.  For the listed time period, what were the dates of any deaths, how old were the horses and what were their id #s?

A. #12620475 – 1yr old Female – Died 6/28/13 from strangles

B. #06619316 – 7yr old Gelding – Died 6/28/13 from Neck/Head injury

C. #10617585 – 3yr old Female – Died 6/30/13 from Unknown*

D. #12619358 – 1yr old Female – Died 7/2/13 from Unknown*


* PVC’s Vet and staff reported no signs of heat-related symptoms prior to the deaths of #10617585 & #12619358. In addition,  these animals had a continuous supply of water, quality hay, and sprinklers present; therefore, there was no life or death issue present. It is not always possible to make a determination of the cause of death. But, if the BLM has any future deaths at PVC that are not associated with a particular illness or injury, a necropsy will be performed.