The ~Texas~ Mustang Project's Blog

Working for better management options and cohabitation through compromise and communication for the American Wild Mustang

BLM is Investigating the Helicopter Fly-over at Wild Horse Holding Corrals

Posted by Texas Mustang Project on March 2, 2010


BLM is investigating the helicopter fly-over at Broken Arrow USA / Fallon Facility. A private helicopter flew over and hovered for a few minutes above the Indian Lakes Road Short-term Holding Facility on Sunday, Feb. 14.  The next day a healthy stallion was found dead in the pen by a damaged corral panel. The death is attributed to a fractured neck that resulted from collision with the corral panel caused by the presence of the helicopter. 

Law enforcement rangers with the Bureau of Land Management are investigating the incident. If anyone has information about the incident, please call Mike Marquart at 775-861-6621.

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29 Responses to “BLM is Investigating the Helicopter Fly-over at Wild Horse Holding Corrals”

  1. sandra longley said

    That is good..However, I do not think that is the first or only broken kneck ,back ect during these gathers- loading, hauling and processing of horses..My Question…if they saw the helicopter…why did it take so long to find the dead stallion…they found him the next morning?????There are some details missing here..Nice they finally dicovered their “outrage”..If it had spooked the horses(and I am not saying it didn’t) why did they not go look and check the horses at that time???
    Hows it going? (I am furiously getting e-mails off the comittee members and getting others to sign the petition.)

    • sandra longley said

      My second thought is this: My Ex had an airplane, he flew everyday to his farm in another state, when he would fly home he would buzz the ranch with the plane, so I would know to go pick him up at the airport…Often times i would be leading horses to put them up in the barn for the night, and mares and foals would be in pipe runs off of the barns..Not once did the horses freak out in such a way as to kill themselves..altho more than once i worried about my toes getting broken…

      • sandra longley said

        Ok-now I am on a rant…Is there a simular investigation into all the other deaths at the fallon complex-how long had those horses been dead before they found them? maybe the same intense investigations need to go into the many deaths at fallon?? do ya THINK??? Rather than 1 death they can’t seem to put a toe tag on…gosh I’d like to think it was legit…but kind of looks like a one and only means to deflect some of the negative attention they are getting

        • sandra longley said

          One call to the FAA should be able to get the information of who had filed a flight plan, or a check with local airports, should give them all the information they need to track down who it was..FAA is pretty strict about usage of airspace..My ex had flown to canada to look at seed potatoes, he filed a flight plan for the return trip..and then decided to make a stop in browning montana to fish for german brown trout..when he did not arrive at his destination…the FAA called me at the ranch to see if I knew his whereabouts..He ended up getting a fine for that transgression..I am just assuming that helicopters have to file a flight plan as well.

          • Ok, just sent off the responses for verification. Soon as I hear back, I will post them for ya! 🙂
            T.

          • Sandra,
            Ok, (whew!) I’m going to try my best to answer all of the questions…
            You asked about the personnel seeing the helicopter and finding the stallion the next day. I do not have all of the information regarding these circumstances at this time. Because this is an ongoing criminal investigation, it is likely that all of the details will not be released until the investigation is completed.
            What I do know is that the helicopter incident happened late in the afternoon. The owner of the facility checked on the horses in the immediate area, but was concerned about pushing too far into their pressure zones as they were already very stressed. The stallion with the fractured neck was found the next morning.
            Next, about the airplane and your horses: This is explained by the desensitization of your horses to the aircraft. They had seen it before, it didn’t pose a threat, and therefore they were not spooked. Most domesticated horses are perfectly fine with aircraft as long as it is not “up close and personal” in their pressure zones. Your ex was flying over, not facing off with them.
            On the other hand, the wild horses had very recent negative markers placed in their memories from the gather operations. The contractor’s helicopter had been “up close and personal” in their pressure zones. Fast forward to the date of the helicopter hovering over their holding pens. Total recall.
            About the other deaths at Fallon and the question of whether or not there are investigations into those deaths: The other deaths were attributed to “internal” factors – see below, not from an “external” factor – the helicopter. As a result, investigations are not performed because these other deaths were explained either by examination of the horse’s body, visualization of the scene and/or by necropsy and lab reports.
            No, this was not the first or only broken neck/back/etc. during the gather.
            1. Saturday, February 20th, “Two year old mare died on her own due to a spinal injury. Injury was related to a larger horse backing into her during approach to the squeeze chute.”
            2. Monday, February 15th, “One healthy stallion was found dead in the pen next to a damaged corral panel. Death attributed to a fractured neck that resulted from collision with corral panel caused by the presence of the helicopter on February 14.”
            3. Friday, February 5th, “One mare in the large pen with the general population was found with a spinal injury this morning and was euthanized. The cause of the injury is unknown.”
            4. Thursday, February 4th, “One stud horse was euthanized on Wednesday because of a severe pre-existing injury. The right hind limb tibia had been fractured in the past and healed poorly with a nonunion. The leg was unstable and the hoof was worn abnormally. One Warm Springs mare suffered a neck fracture and was euthanized after she collided with a corral panel while being moved from one pen to another. A different Warm Springs mare that arrived at the facility in sound condition became lame. An examination found a hind leg bone fracture and the mare was euthanized. The cause of the fracture is unknown.”
            5. Saturday, January 30th, “One horse was euthanized at the gather corrals: a 4-year-old sorrel mare was kicked in the head while being transported from the gather corral to the gather holding corrals. The eye globe was ruptured with complete prolapse of the iris. This eye could not be saved and would remain a serious physical defect. She was euthanized as an act of mercy.”
            6. Wednesday, January 27th, “One 12 y/o euthanized due to a broken neck/spinal injury, cause unknown. One 18 y/o was euthanized that had a pelvis injury.”
            7. Saturday, January 23rd, “One mare at the facility ran into a gate and broke her neck.”
            (These were copied from the Daily Gather Updates. I hope I copied them all, sorry if I missed any.)
            Regarding the FAA and the flight plans: I do not know for 100% sure that a privately operated helicopter is required to file a flight plan with the FAA, and if there are mitigating circumstances to such a requirement. For instance, the distance of the flight, whether or not there are passengers on board, what the purpose of the flight is, and etc. could be possible reasons, but again, I am not familiar with these rules.
            My personal helicopter experience is with Air Medical Services Aircraft (helicopters). We do not have to clear our flight plans with the FAA or with the local airspace controller towers unless we are entering regulated airspace (the airports, military bases, etc.). We are emergency services – time is of the essence. The airspace is cleared upon lift-off with an announcement over radio frequencies by our pilot that the aircraft is “on mission” and aircraft heading is given. Dispatch and the pilots monitor the frequencies to ensure that there are no other aircraft at the same altitudes on the same heading or on a collision heading, and if this does occur, the necessary adjustments are made.
            So! I hope I covered it, but please let me know if there are any further questions and I will do my best to get the info posted.
            T.

  2. LOL, ok, hold up for just a sec Sandra… I’m trying to keep up… Gimme just a sec and I’ll answer all of them at once 🙂
    T.

  3. sandra longley said

    Whats with the handcuffs?? Are they for making a citizens arrest????LOL

  4. sandra longley said

    I disagree with your premise of becoming desensitized to the air plane..they never became desensitized…same reaction every time…whereas I now live across the road from a switching station for trains and those trains run daily and frequently through out the day..my horses are ‘trained” as I like to say-they pay no attention. IF you lived near an airport where planes were landing an taking off all day..they would become desensitized to that sound..being buzzed at a low altiitude would still spook them. You know how that goes-you walk by a big box every day with your horse-he pays no attention…move that box five feet and see what happens..or tip it over…I got a dislocated shoulder out of an incident just like that.LOL

    I remember reading their original post on the BLM homepage about the helicopter incident and it was not reported AS it is now being reported..other than it was noted that a stallion was found dead on the day after they saw a helicopter fly over..no mention at that time of hovering. Most of the “hovering” I saw was on the gather-and yes I do consider that criminal activity…no matter who did it..and so should they..but since no one saw a wreck occur when the helicopter came over…they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in a court of law-especially given there own trackrecord of deaths not associated with the helicopter..I am just saying I would have serious reservations about the quality of their information..and no..I donot believe a helicopter should be hovering over the horses..Perhaps if they willingly had given acess to the facilities instead of closing it to any observers..no one would have been trying to fly over to see what what was going on there. Thanks for the info..back to my letter writing..

    • Ah! Ok, I misunderstood… I was thinking you meant that they wouldn’t react in a “spooky” manner. Yea, I understand what you mean about the “trained” part, and about the box. One of the mares I had in training back in 2008 had the same issue with a manhole cover – in the beginning, every time we passed it she would side-step around it if was opened; closed she had no issue. It was peculiar to me because the manhole cover was painted bright-neon orange, and it didn’t matter if the cover was completely removed and set to the side or if it was only slightly opened; she still had the same reaction. I finally diagnosed that it was the blackness / openness contrasted against the bright-neon orange. Of course, once she realized that it was merely an obstacle to avoid physically – in other words, don’t step in it – she was fine with it.
      I understand your reservations about trusting their information, and I do not and will not make excuses for them as it is not my place. And yea, it’s definitely criminal to say the least. Personally, I am anxiously awaiting the arrest and charging of the pilot / operator. Can’t wait to see their faces plastered across every blog and web page out there so that they’ll never get a moment’s rest or peace.
      A thought comes to mind about your statement regarding access… Do you really think it is possible that someone did this just to see what was going on with the horses??? I mean, who in their right mind would go to such lengths just to see what was going on? If they had any sense they would know that actions like this would only serve to further the amounts of stress placed on the horses, and it obviously did place more stress on them as evidenced by the death of a young, healthy stallion. I’m all for transparency, evidence, and access. But come on! If this really is the case, that’s going too far!
      Sorry, ranting, I know. But it just gets under my skin that there is the possibility of someone out there so hell-bent on getting “dirt” on the BLM or information of any kind about the facility and the horses that they would totally disregard the health and safety – both physically and psychologically – in order to obtain it. Where do we draw the line? Are we supposed to condone behaviors that harm the horses just because they are the behaviors of an advocate non-personnel? We certainly don’t condone the same behaviors when it’s the BLM or contractors. So why would we make exceptions?
      (Advocate non personnel is because if the person truly was an advocate, their first priority and concern would be the health and safety of the horses and this situation wouldn’t have happened in the first place.)
      The bottom line here is the health, safety and overall well-being of the horses. End of story. It shouldn’t make a difference who the offending party is, advocate, non-personnel or personnel. The “offending party” is still the offending party. They are still responsible for whatever harm – again, physically and psychologically – that comes to the horses. That party should be held accountable regardless.
      There are calls for investigations and that criminal charges should be filed against the BLM and the contractor because of the casualties of the Calico gather. If advocacy is truly the intent of these individuals, why wouldn’t they want the same for someone who is not an employee of the BLM or the contractor? Reminds me of the old saying… What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
      Sorry for getting on my soap box. Been a long day. :l
      T.

      • sandra longley said

        I agree 100% with your feelings on the subject..thinking about the horses welfare and safety should always be our first concern

      • What if it was someone who was just curious and knew absolutely NOTHING about horses? And, incredibly, there are people THAT ignorant. Seems like they respond to comments of mine somewhere every day. Still guilty though. If they were close enough to see what was going on, they could see they were causing “agitation” among the horses. Surly ANY fool could see that.

        If it was a so called “advocate” they otta be shot!

  5. R.Thompson said

    *T* said: ” I finally diagnosed that it was the blackness / openness contrasted against the bright-neon orange. ”

    Yes, it was and is the basis for their reaction. As you know, it is also the premise of “cattle guards” on access roads. Temple Grandin explains it well in layman’s terms in her book “Animals in Transition.” There are also circumstances where they must perceive an egress, as blind alleys are also spooky.

    Sandra L….something endearing about all horses, for me anyway, is their similarity to human males…e.g., the don’t much like physical environmental “changes” useless they are barely perceptable. I’m pretty sure most wives out there can realate to that from any “rearranging ” of furniture vis a vis the male half. Speaking for myself, dang it, do NOT move the furniture around in the living room…I could break a leg tripping over it ya’ know!

    Speaking of boxes alongsde hoof paths, same experience here….but, how about blowing/bouncing styroform coffee cups during a contest event at a full gallop? Or even just in the woods? Without some conditioning to the potential most horses can get quite “animated” when it occurs…e.g., they check out your potential cutting horse “seat” at the least when they go straight sideways.

    All said and done, I despise using helicopters especially for any kind of stock round up…such as the annual push of buffalo cows and their calves off low pasture lands back in to the boundary Yellowstone Park meadows. Not a fan of roaring ATV use for cattle either. This said, I would question any “advocate’s” intentions if they utilize the same practices for a “look around.”

  6. reveil39 said

    with the handcuffs and the way the fatality is described, this post sounds more like a warning from a law enforcement agency than an actual report. It’s like : don’t you dare try this or else…..

    • R.Thompson said

      Not to be snide, but that is exactly what the *message* should be IMO. Air space, even over federal lands, is not free access any more than your front yard is for campers or partiers you don’t know. Proximity to a military facility makes it even less free access for aircraft, espcially in this age of “crotch bombers” … by the way, was flying directly over my house at the he immoliated his junk. Color me not pleased.

      Theoretically: Were some group decide to fly over, and low hover over, for any reason, a corral of horses on my private property, I might be a bit more severe, courtesy of the lessons learned, from some scruffy guys in black pajamas and/or olive/kakhi uniforms long ago, regarding how to remove helicopters from the sky.

      If we hold that using helicopters and other aircraft for herd (droving) movement is a bad thing, then it applies to everyone, even the merely curious or the intrusive.

      • reveil39 said

        I understand.
        But with the high amount of casualties as a direct consequence to the round up, and the fact that the horse was found dead the next day with a broken neck, it just does not make sense.
        The horses are in close quarters. I would think that if one horse panicked, many would have followed.

        • R.Thompson said

          Many may have followed, but without breaking their necks. My point is that the circumstances imply a source of panic, and the most recent was the low hovering helicopter.

          I could write an epistle about my hatred of the use of helicopters and small aircraft for wildlife “management”…other than high overflight for census work. It is a bloody business however you look at it, and in some cases, other than horses, intentionally lethal.

          In short: my posiiton is prove to me the low hovering roaring air beating dust chruning helicopter didn’t cause the accidental death of the horse. Given the time proximity, it is highly likely that it did so.

          I don’t believe for a minute that working stiff BLM employees or contractors are killing horses for “fun.”

          • reveil39 said

            I did not imply employees. I thought some of the workers were seasonal.

          • R.Thompson said

            If the horses were considered a vermin (by the uninformed or just ignroant) and fair sporting “game” by some, where the kills are displayed and bragged about, you’d have afair point about the potential for seasonal employees being invovled. It has happened outside and on the boundaries of National Parks for both Wolves and Black bears. In some cases it is done by helicopter or small aircraft.

            I could be wrong, but I don’t think wild horses have yet reached that pinnacle….one where even private companies sponsor “derbies” for killing the animals.

        • R.Thompson said

          Here’s another common analogous scenario: When people in a crowded theater are pancied by someone yelling “fire”, the most likely to be crushed and killed is the first one to hit a locked door…the others stampeding agains them.

          In other words, the others don’t get crushed in their panic, but the one in front does.

  7. reveil39 said

    Will we ever know the truth about how the horse broke his neck while standing in a corral?
    Or is someone having too much fun breaking horses necks?
    What about an investigation about people catering to horses at Fallon? Is that even a consideration?

  8. sandra longley said

    It seems to me..that no one wanted the horses to get hurt..Its bad press for the BLM..which they don’t need..The advocates obviously were against the whole roundup for that and other reasons..Problem is…people don’t think things through..to the what could go wrong phase, and plan..and by the very nature of gathers…they are a disaster waiting to happen…hey, and I have seen alot of horses-killed with love as well.

    • R.Thompson said

      Absolutely correct. I’ve seen a weaning flip over backwards just standing in a “halter class” (why is there even a halter class for weanlings?) and break its neck, subsequently dying by euthanasia, in front of 3000+ people. A horse, if sufficiently alarmed, can break its neck in its own stall, let alone a corral with no escape. We all know they are large, powerful…and fragile animals.

      They may have meant no harm, but who ever flew over and low hovered over the BLM corral were idiots of the first order. Whether there is a unborken chain of evidence proving it caused the horses death is immaterial…because it certainly could have done so and the coincident circumstance if damning.

  9. sandra longley said

    Well, I am taking the day off to celebrate a small victory at the budget comittee meetings today..In the opening statement, senator bingaman said that the purchase of holding facilities by the BLM was an unauthorised use of funds from the land and water conservsation fund..Senator Landruie from Lousiana, directly adressed the issue of removing the horses…and by the way..where did all the land go that they were given in 1971…all in all a very good sign of things to come

  10. R.Thompson said

    Dang! One of these days I will learn to proof read for typos and word ommissions. Need more coffee. Lots more.

  11. kt said

    There is a big military base at Fallon. Navy Fallon.

    If a helicopter flew over and hovered, that’s where I would look.

    Fallon also has all kinds of loud military plane noise in the vicinity, is my understanding.

    It also has a very high cancer rate.

    Just an awful place to keep any animals already under stress.

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