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home : features : nature July 23, 2016

1/22/2014 6:00:00 AM
Injured animal policy is cruel
SUMMER123/Wikimedia Commons
SUMMER123/Wikimedia Commons

Don Martin
The Great Outdoors

Last month while on a desert bighorn sheep hunt in Unit 15B West, my friends and I saw first-hand the policy of both the Lake Mead National Recreational Area and our local Bureau of Land Management when it comes to injured animals, and more specifically, wild horses. Or burros.

It all started when we spotted a black mare about 100 yards off of the Coehnour Loop Road.

Spotting horses in this area is nothing new to me. In the past 25 years I have seen other horses in this area, although this herd is kind of a little "secret" - the land is within the Lake Mead recreational area's borders and is not a designated horse management area.

All the government agencies know there are horses there, but since the herd is small and isn't in any kind of designated management area, they were basically ignored.

But this mare had broken her left rear leg just above the knee. The lower portion of her leg was swollen and she was hobbling as she tried to feed on the desert scrub.

She was about seven miles from Lake Mead, so there was no water close by.

We noticed that the horse was very thin. You could see her ribs and it was a pitiful sight to see her limp and in obvious pain.

Because of the Wild Horse and Burro Act, it is illegal for anyone to put down a horse, even one in that condition. All we could do was call it in and hope that someone would come and stop the suffering.

I called the emergency number for the Lake Mead area and also left a number for Don McClure at the local office of the BLM. It was a Saturday, so I wasn't sure when or if I would get a call back.

As it turned out, I did get a call back from a Lake Mead area dispatcher, who was given the information, including the GPS location of the horse.

Later, I received a call from a Lake Mean recreational area supervisor, and I gave him the information as well. Then another call came in from a ranger at Temple Bar who said he was waiting on a supervisor's decision.

I assumed that they would respond and put down the injured horse. Three days later, we were back in the same area and I noticed there were no new vehicle tracks on the sandy road.

Then I spotted them - a brown mare and her black colt, and 300 yards behind them was that poor injured mare!

Obviously, no one had responded. The injured horse was trying to keep up with healthy animals.

The next day, I received a call from McClure and I gave him the name and number of the ranger I had spoken to at Temple Bar.

McClure asked if I had been contacted by Lake Mead officials. I said that I had, but it was obvious that nothing had been done.

A short time later, that same ranger at Temple Bar called me. I asked why he had not responded to put that injured horse out of her misery.

I was shocked at his reply.

The ranger said his supervisor told him that they "were just going to let nature take its course."

The ranger said that unless an animal was hit by a car and blocking a road, they would not intervene.

In other words, since this animal was out of the public view, until some predator took the horse down and killed it, or it starved to death or died because of a lack of water, the horse would just have to continue to suffer.

That is unacceptable and inhumane. To let an animal die in a slow, painful manner just doesn't sit well with me.

Later on, I got a call from a BLM employee who works in that agency's wild horse and burro program in Kingman. He told me that since the horses were not in a herd management area, they would technically fall under the supervision of the Arizona State Livestock Inspector. That person had been contacted, he said.

I asked about the BLM's policy on injured animals like this horse, and he confirmed what I'd already been told.

"We let nature take care of it," he said.

If I had to bet, I'd say that horse has died a very slow and painful death.

And personally, I don't feel that the policy to "Let nature takes its course" is appropriate when an injured animal is found.

If you would like to let Bill Dickinson, superintendent of the Lake Mead National Recreational Area, know your feelings about how this was handled, he can be reached at: Lake Mead National Recreational Area, ATTN: Superintendent Bill Dickinson, 601 Nevada Way, Boulder City, NV 89005.

If you don't think the BLM's policy of doing nothing in these instances is appropriate, then write to the State Director Raymond Suazo, One North Central Avenue, Suite 800, Phoenix, AZ 85004-4427.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, January 24, 2014
Article comment by: Sally Bird

Thank you Mr. Martin for being kind, compassionate, humane and morally correct.
Unfortunately you were dealing with unkind, uncompassionate, morally digusting, inhumane and lazy people. Don't you know that if they had done the right thing they would have had to make an effort?

Posted: Friday, January 24, 2014
Article comment by: Susan Rollison

I am thrilled this gentleman had the decency to inform us regarding injured animals. What is wrong with the BLM, you are so busy taking care of yourself when something is in pain can you please send someone out to help. Sally Jewel had done nothing to visit these areas and i wish she would please get in her private helicopter and ride over these lands. Do you have no compassion Ms. Jewel. Please look into this immediately. You are paid by the taxpayers and you work for us. Please respond quickly before more are injured and suffer freezing cold temperatures and no help. Are you that cold and uncaring?

Posted: Friday, January 24, 2014
Article comment by: Terrie Fry

I am sickened by the way your organization handled this..perhaps your family will one day say ah hell he don't need no doctor just let nature take its course...

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014
Article comment by: Judy Jamison

I totally agree with the above comments and all I can say right now, that will print anyway is, I just want those so called people who would not help this poor helpless and hurt horse, I want each one of them and ANYONE else like them to KNOW that God IS NOT sleeping. That's all for now.

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014
Article comment by: Korbin Mondschien

While I agree that the mare shouldn't have been left to suffer, it's not a good idea to have them change their policy. The BLM has a record for acting in inappropriate ways towards mustangs. They don't need encouragement to treat them worst than they already do. In the past I've seen them taser and shoot a young colt for 'misbehaving' during a round up. The BLM has never treated them kindly since they're taking up 'precious range' for their cows and 'destroying' water sources 'meant for the cows'.

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014
Article comment by: Nancy Albin

to help an injured horse like that that is in pain suffering it is not breaking Gods Law!! & besides who cares about there blm laws they don't abid by them so you need to do the right thing when you see things don't wait for gov blm to do anything but i watch them break there laws 24/7 here in Nevada Virginia Range.

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014
Article comment by: Catherine Vitolo

I know things happen in the wild. but when a person call it in them it should be taken care of. At lease that person did do anything. Maybe someone else might then they would be in trouble.

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014
Article comment by: Monika Courtney

This demands urgent reconsideration of policy. While no troop can be established to intervene in "nature's course" on wild animals out there, it is ethically unacceptable to let one suffer when authorities are notified. For them to play the finger pointing game to other jurisdictions and dismiss the situation reflects pure neglect and barbaric mindset. When an elk is injured here in CO., we call authorities. Wildlife officials or state troopers will take the injured animal out of its misery by giving him a mercy bullet, considering location is accessible and situation deemed necessary. The fact that officials at Temple Bar, the BLM and all who were contacted below, turned a blind eye to this horse's suffering while resting on the "it's someone else's jurisdiction" throne, is unacceptable. This horse was left to agonize to great, unnecessary length. While BLM has no problem pursuing other wild horses in whatever manner and cause they please... no problem at all to put a bullet to those they fatally injure during round ups, or has little concern how many may die during their "operations", they refuse to apply humane standards to put a helpless horse in agony out of its misery ? Under the guise of what ? Saving a bullet ? Resources ? Time ? Nature's way ? Wrong. Needs amending!

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014
Article comment by: mr. parker

@Wiley Coyote: I'll bet if it was a Mexican Wolf, they'd have a flight for life helicopter with DVM's on board.
And if it was injured from a human interaction, it would be a federal case.

All ethical hunters try to make a first shot kill, and are ethically and legally bound to pursue the wounded animal.

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014
Article comment by: Capt. Nice

I had kind of a similar thing happen.
I found a deer who had jumped into a corral for a drink of water and since the rancher had the gates shut she had to Jump in and out.
Evidently the deer got hurt jumping out and was laying next to the fence dying.
I called Game and Fish and they said they hated the person who ran cattle there (on
state land) and they never go out there.
I shot the deer and decided what good is the fish and game if they have no feelings for the animals they are to protect?
Of course if the authorities had seen me shoot the dying deer, I probably would have had to pay a hefty fine so they could build a new annex on their building or buy another fancy truck.......isn't government grand?

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014
Article comment by: SJunelsla chance

Hear of stay bullets keep mouth shut & help the poor animal doing nothin is not helping

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014
Article comment by: Levi Rogers

Don I'm in full agreement with you about the horse needing to be put down. The dad-bern-it government officials need to get off their respective butts and take care of their jobs.
If there is an over population problem, I'm sure that I will make some folks mad. Slaughter the horses and burros that don't get adopted and feed the homeless. I don't think that they care about a beef steak, or a horse steak. I know that I wouldn't.
That's my opinion anyhow. Sorry if I upset anybody.

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014
Article comment by: mary brawner

it seems like these poor anmals are being punished because of their location. if that be the case then maybe someone should consider that they be moved to another location. its a good thing they aren't in contoll of the fate of say transient people. these are gods creatures shouldn't we show some compassion simply for the fact that they are living creatures.

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014
Article comment by: Time for Change

The whole management of the mustangs is so backwards it's mind boggling.
There is no management . It's outdated and costs a ton of money and horses lives.
People should get upset over this even if they don't care about horses. The whole story is very upsetting but not surprising. Laziness and complacency is another factor.

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014
Article comment by: Terry W

Last I looked at the Wild and Free-roaming Horse and Burro Act it states that you cannot kill a wild horse or burro EXCEPT IN AN ACT OF MERCY.

I don't think that's been changed.

In Havasu we've had suffering burros struck by cars with sheriff's deputies trying to get the BLM on the phone, while the animal continues to suffer. In 2000 they were informed that they could in fact end the animal's suffering, they don't need the BLM to do this.

Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Article comment by: mr. parker

This makes me sick. Nature is cruel but when man could intervene to end an animal's suffering and no official is man or woman enough to respond, we need to be able to bypass the system and put the animal out of its suffering.

The BLM needs a good slappin' down.

Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Article comment by: Just J

Wonder how each one of them would feel IF when they are seriously injured or sick we just sat back and said "let nature take it's course!" This story has me livid! How dare they, the least they could do is pick the horse up, bring it to their facility and humanely euthanize the poor horse! These people and their red tape government crap are the cruelest. I have a LOT more to say BUT the paper wouldn't print my words.

Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Article comment by: Trained Observer

This policy needs revision. If you could get near the horse, they could too. We need to geld the stallions and reduce the herd sizes instead of playing this "adopt a horse" game where less than 3,000 get adopted each year. And none of these horses should go to slaugher houses.

Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Article comment by: jim smith

well spoken don!

Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Article comment by: Wiley Coyote

"unacceptable and inhumane?"

So how do you feel about the slow and painful deaths of all the wild animals injured by bad rifle and bow shots caused by your outfitting clients? They run off never to be seen again on three legs or a punctured organ and may take weeks to finally die. How is it that only domestic animals have feelings of pain and suffering?

This whole column is as lame as that horse and needs to get put out of its misery.

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