New AWHPC Release and Report on Calico and the Fatal Cost of Stress

New Report from AWHPC: BLM Calico Complex Roundup: A Case Study of a Broken System for Horses and Taxpayers

includes ““Wild Horses, The Stress of Captivity” ” by Dr. Bruce Nock, PhD

Healthy Wild Horses of Calico- Craig Downer, 10-09

American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign News Release

New Report on BLM’s Calico Mustang Roundup Highlights True Costs to Wild Horses and Taxpayers Mounting death toll attributed to stress and trauma, as rising cost exceeds $1.3 million in less than four months

Reno, Nevada (April 19, 2010). . . Stress and trauma lie behind the majority of the 86 wild horse deaths (to date) stemming from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Calico Mountains Complex roundup in Nevada, a report issued today by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) concludes. The report estimates the cost to taxpayers through April for the roundup and warehousing of horses in short-term holding facilities to be at minimum $1.3 million.

“The Calico wild horse roundup was one of the most controversial and closely watched BLM actions in decades, but it is a far cry from the treatment that Congress envisioned when it passed the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act to protect these iconic animals from harassment and death,” said Suzanne Roy, Campaign Director for the AWHPC.

Of particular note:

• 43 percent of deaths due to diet and metabolic failure, a condition related to the physiological changes induced by stress and trauma;

• 22 percent of deaths due solely to “poor condition,” with a majority involving 20+ year old horses, raising humanitarian concerns about the ethics of stampeding elderly and ailing horses up to ten miles with helicopters before capture, separation from family and confinement;

• 19 percent of the deaths due to traumatic injury either at the capture site or in the holding pens, including broken necks, spinal and pelvis injuries, fatal hoof and leg damage sustained in the helicopter stampede;

• A high number of spontaneous abortions (at least 40), which are directly related to the winter roundup when heavily pregnant mares are subjected to stress and trauma. “The body doesn’t distinguish between a fight-or-flight situation, like being chased by a helicopter, and a psychological stressor. That means the bad news for wild horses only begins with the gather,” wrote Dr. Bruce Nock, Associate Professor at the Washington University School of Medicine and expert on the physiological effects of stress on animals, in a report prepared for the AWHPC.

“Everything about captivity is stressful to one degree or another to wild horses, especially when it begins with the traumatic experience of a gather. It is extremely detrimental to their long-term health and soundness.”

In addition to the high cost to the horses, the AWHPC notes the expense of the Calico roundup, which will cost taxpayers at least $1.3 million through April, and $1 million a year to warehouse the non-adoptable horses over their 20+ year lifespans. This costly policy, which relies on expensive roundups every four years, is pursued while cost-effective, on-the-range management strategies are ignored. The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. Its grassroots efforts are supported by a coalition of over forty organizations representing over 10 million citizens nationwide. The full 39-page report, including Appendices, is available upon request. For more information, please see

BLM Calico Complex Roundup: A Case Study of a Broken System for Horses and Taxpayers (includes ““Wild Horses, The Stress of Captivity” ” by Dr. Bruce Nock, PhD)

Photo above by Craig Downer

13 Responses to “New AWHPC Release and Report on Calico and the Fatal Cost of Stress”

  1. Kathy Lecavalier Says:


  2. Terry Casson Says:

    Has this info been shared with ? How do we expect to get government spending in check with this kind of irresponsible management?

  3. sandra longley Says:

    The synopsis of the cause and effect by the PHD veterinary..excellent..instead of using medical terminology to confuse, and cloud the issue -he was able to relate the condition and its consequences in a way no other has so far..To me, that has always been a sign of an excellent vet..he understands the material well enough to explain it in layman terms..I stay clear of vets who can only repeat the terminology they read in a medical journal.
    Also I am extremely dissapointed that most of the horses in poor condition were not noted by range..If a problem exisits in areas there is no way to find it and fix it..I have heard 2 different conclusions or statements, 1 that most of those horses came from the black rock areas, and in later hospital reports called them “recovering calico and warm springs mares”..and yet in those charts..most of those horses were unidentified by range. If you realy don’t know..then quit making erroneous statements

  4. Nora Morbeck Says:

    Questions: The death toll count at 86 is new, as far as I know. What does this number include? Is this just adult horses? Does this number also include spontaneous abortions? Does this number include new foals, which the BLM doesn’t count?
    One thing that concerns me is that there are numbers getting tossed out like popcorn. They are very inconsistent, and one of the most important things we need as advocates is accuracy when reporting numbers to our decision makers. Otherwise, we come off sounding ill-informed and unreliable.

    • Lisa LeBlanc Says:

      Consider what resources we have – the BLM Daily Gather report, which seems to undercount the actual deaths – and Humane Observer’s reports.
      As of Monday, April 19, the Gather Report puts cumulative deaths at 79.
      It doesn’t include the number of horses shot at the gather sites during roundups, or the number of miscarriages. It also doesn’t include live births or the shooting of the infant One Day.
      I’m more inclined to trust Humane Observer reports. But there has to be some sort of meeting in the middle; BLM Gather reports become part of the Public record and eventually skewed into an absolute truth. Humane Observer reports are important only to Advocates and Allies.

      • Janet Ferguson Says:

        That’s right — it is two parallel universes. . . .the BLM and the advocates’ observations, knowledge, and record.

        There needs to be an interface, and it’s not happening very fast. . . or at least quickly enough.

        I guess the old adage remains — BLM runs by “The Golden Rule: — the one with the gold makes the rules — and they have taken the “gold” (taxes) from us all these years and it is no longer ours.

      • sandra longley Says:

        Are job is to ask pertinent questions..The old way of making blanket vague statements is not going to fly..I realise the BLM has their hands full with all of the horses in Fallon-but that does not exempt them from good recordkeeping and that is what we are asking for–I know they think we are playing” gottcha”, but if the facts are clear consise and complete..most of that will disappear.

  5. Jan Eaker Says:

    there is good information, statistics, etc on the mustang project blog, link on TCF blog,

  6. Public Alarmed at BLM’s Surprise Start to Castrate Mustangs as Death Toll Rises in Nevada Facility « The PPJ Gazette Says:

    […] wild horse treasures.” According to a newly released report by Bruce Nock, PhD entitled “Wild Horses, The Stress of Captivity” the deaths and abortions can be attributed in part to the sheer stress of the roundup. This […]

  7. Mary Ann Simonds Says:

    Since 1973 when I did my undergraduate work at the University of Wyoming in wild horse ecology and range management I have tried to help offer sound behavior solutions to wild horse managment. I worked for a number of years with Fred Wyatt who managed the pens in Palomino Valley and we implemented many stress management guidelines. I wrote the Stress Managmenet Guidelines for the capturing, processing and holding of horses for the BLM back and worked with many districts on reducing stress during capture and processing. I reserached and developed a line of stress management formulas we admin into the water which worked very well –so where have all the people gone who implemented good stress management for wild horses? It is a good thinkg I have file drawers full of information back to 1973 on the wild horse program as the BLM seems to have forgotten their own culture and information.

  8. Death toll of mustangs rises as BLM begins castrating befoe court hearing « The PPJ Gazette Says:

    […] to a newly released report by Bruce Nock, PhD entitled “Wild Horses, The Stress of Captivity” the deaths and abortions can be attributed in part to the sheer stress of the roundup. This […]

  9. Anna Says:

    hello from Anna in conn. the NorthEastern USA;

    MaryAnn wrote:

    I wrote the Stress Managmenet Guidelines for the capturing, processing and holding of horses for the BLM;

    my comment: why don’t you see if you can send those files to: “Wild Horses, The Stress of Captivity” ” by Dr. Bruce Nock, PhD; ATTN: Dr. Bruce Nock, PhD;

    I read the report and Dr. Nock is “right on ! I would see if Dr. Nock would like the files to expand on his information!

    I would also urge you to send these files to:
    any one who has not seen them; any Mustang org. THNX!

  10. Mary Ann Simonds Says:

    Thanks Anna:

    I have been in touch with Bruce Nock and others who focus is on stress in captive social mammals. We are working together to develop a data base of scientists to support characterization of stress behaviors. I have also developed a stress assessment form that is in research use at the moment.

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