Calico wild horses are out of sight, but not out of mind

Calico wild horses are out of sight, but not out of mind

Elyse Gardner & Bob Bauer Video of Calico Stallions Once Free, Now Captive

Out of sight, out of mind. That's what the BLM is hoping will happen to the captive wild horses from the Calico Mountains. The agency has used the Easter holiday as a rationale for cancelling the usual Sunday public visiting hours, so we're literally in the dark about what's happening behind the closed doors of the 320-are feedlot near Fallon, Nevada.


Calico wild horses are out of sight, but not out of mind
A captive mustang foal from another "gather," photographed by Pam Nickoles


So let's think about something we do know. Thanks to observers like Terri Farley, Elyse Gardner, Cat Kindsfather, and Tara Kain, we know that there are what Phantom Stallion author Terri Farley terms "phantom foals" at the Indian Lakes Road facility, so-called because the BLM hasn't been publicly reporting their births, and does not disclose their deaths. This must not continue.

According to Ms. Farley, until the foals born at the facility are branded, when they are approximately four months old, they don't officially exist. Apparently, it's BLM policy not to offer any special assistance to foals who are obviously injured or not thriving. These babies don't even receive the benefit of basic veterinary care in situations where medical intervention or an accurate diagnosis could mean the difference between life and death.

That was the case with a day-old dun colt with a distinctive dorsal stripe (characteristic of Spanish mustangs), whose suffering was witnessed by several observers on Sunday, March 21st. Terri's account of what they saw is chilling:

"11:45am. Visitors observe buckskin mare and newborn foal in a pen with other adult horses. Foal looks like 'he had melted into the contours of the ground' according to one observer and Mr. (John) Neill (BLM Facility Manager) said the foal was a weak newborn from the night before.

12:30pm. Sometime during the tour, members of the public notice a nursery pen with just six mare and foal pairs inside and wonder why the buckskin and her foal aren't with them.

1:45pm. Mr. Neill agreed with visitors that foal might be sick and indicated he would check on it. If necessary, a vet would be called.

2:00pm. As observers depart, foal is still down."

We don't really know exactly what happened next. We do know that John Neill told two different stories about the foal's demise. He told one caller that a vet had diagnosed the colt as having a broken femur, and that it was subsequently euthanized by "chemical injection." But a few days later, Mr. Neill admitted to Ms. Farley that he could "just tell" that the foal had a compound fracture; the veterinarian had never even been asked to examine the little guy. Neill said that he "took care of it," leaving open to conjecture what method he actually used to euthanize the colt.

The BLM must be held accountable for all of the horses in its care, regardless of whether they arrived in captivity on their own four feet or were carried there in-utero. We only know about the dun colt because he happened to be born on the night before a public tour. How many others like him have been born and died and been literally swept away before anyone from the outside world could see?

The continued cruelty that is being inflicted on the Calico wild horses is intolerable. But it's not enough for us to raise our voices on their behalf, we must also protect the wild horses who are still running free from suffering the same heartless injustices.

The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to greatly scale back the number of wild horses it will allow to occupy the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in central Nevada. There isn't much time to to register your objections to their ill-conceived plan. Comments must be received by Monday, April 5th.

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