Today the Calico Mountain roundup took place once again at Soldier Meadows. Madeleine Pickens with sister Chris, faithful old canine companion Oliver, and staff came to view for themselves this process of removing our wild horses from their homes. Attorney Valerie Stanley, wildlife ecologist Craig Downer, and I were present along with a “Good Morning America” crew. While be escorted by BLM on the way to the capture site, we saw the two huge truck/trailer vehicles full of horses being shipped to Fallon that day, and Valerie Stanley and Jerry Reynoldson saw a mare down in the first trailer. We promptly told Gene Seidlitz, who said he’d contact the driver.
(semi truck trailer transporting Calico horses in late Dec. photo by Craig Downer, blog manager’s addition)
BLM State Director Ron Wenker greeted us along with BLM Wild Horse and Burro Management Specialist Bolstadt and two additional public information specialists — Heather Emmons, Managing Public Information Specialist, with another Public Information Heather from Idaho (sorry, Heather; I can’t locate your last name!) — and a larger than usual cadre of security people. Gene Seidlitz and Lisa Ross were, of course, present as well. Alan Shepherd, BLM’s lead Wild Horse and Burro Specialist, took the lead in speaking on behalf of BLM, followed by Gene Seidlitz.
BLM set aside this extra day to observe the roundup operation outside its committed Monday, Wednesday, Saturday schedule, in order to accommodate Ms. Pickens and the ABC crew. Craig Downer, Valerie Stanley, and I were asked by Madeleine to accompany her, and we were very glad to do so. Accompanied by several of her staff, Madeleine and Chris and staff arrived at the capture site carried by three helicopters BLM had given previous permission to arrive. Driven by Jerry Reynoldson, former staffer of Senator Harry Reid, and escorted in a caravan of nine four-wheel drive vehicles, we arrived a good bit later at approximately 9:55 a.m.
The day started on a dark note. BLM staff along with Sue Cattoor were angry, stating that Ms. Pickens and her helicopter crew had reneged on their agreement and had inappropriately flown over capture airspace, alleging that they had spooked the wild horses and jeopardized the entire day’s operation. Alan Shepherd said he immediately downed their (Cattoor) aircraft when he saw the Pickens helicopters. This was an unverified statement since no one from BLM nor the Cattoors were flying or able to see the wild horses. We were tersely informed that it would be at least two hours before any incoming horses would arrive.
After listening patiently to the anger and frustration communicated by Alan Shepherd, Gene Seidlitz, and Sue Cattoor, Madeleine Pickens stated that they had flown over what they believed was well away from the capture area; that they stayed high enough so that the no more than 200 horses they had seen were not at all concerned about their presence. She said they came down lower to view one small band of five horses, who merely looked up inquisitively and did not move off their grazing spot. She stated, “This is not a friendly environment,” and was diplomatic but clearly outraged at BLM’s accusation that she had spooked the wild horses.
We looked at the approximately 80 horses still in pens, to be shipped the following day (Friday) to Fallon’s new facility. The horses are separated into weanlings six months and older; mares; stallions, and mare/foal combination. Here is some of what we saw.
© Photography by Elyse Gardner
Stallions. Some really beautiful horses. Alan Shepherd states these horses were at a virtual ideal weight. He felt the mares were generally well but a little underweight.
Displaying a wary curiosity…
When roundup operations resumed, we first saw the helicopter off in the distance. It hovered for long periods before we could see any horses, and I was wondering what was going on. When the horses came up over the rise and we were able to finally see them, it cut deep: They were so far away, they looked like ants, but we could clearly see they kept squaring off and facing the helicopter, moving back toward it and trying to head uphill back into the safety of their mountains. The helicopter would face them like some omnipotent monster and sometimes slowly head toward them until they turned back toward the trail the pilot wanted them to travel. Here you can see the horses trying to move up the mountain toward the terrible machine.
Below, we can see the defeated horses running back down the hill toward the trail. The helicopter has closed the distance between himself and the wild horses. My video clip shows trotting and cantering horses, not easy on the uneven ground. They are not walking casually.
Above, the first to arrive is mom with her baby valiantly struggling to keep up.
…followed closely by the helicopter now to get them into the pens. Note the Judas horse in front (the Cattoors’ horse, “Shorty,” a good horse who knows his job and does it faithfully. You can also see Dave Cattoor standing where he and Shorty stood just a half our or so about even even with the last horse.