Ok… Just talked with a few different folks out at the gather. Don’t quote me on any of this yet because everything was said so fast and there was so much information – I haven’t double checked anything yet. I usually don’t even post anything without the double and triple check but I’ll make an exception for this situation given the circumstances.
According to what I have been told so far this morning, there are no cattle on these lands currently, nor have there been cattle or any other livestock on these lands for quite some time. The reason is due to the lack of water on the range. Basically, the ranchers don’t even want to see their livestock out there because there isn’t enough water for them, let alone them plus the horses.
Additionally, there are no fences around the watering holes. The terrain simply does not allow for fences as it is very rocky and very uneven. And of course, if they’re not going to graze their livestock on it, why would they waste their time, money and energy putting up fences.
According to the National Weather Service the area in which these horses reside has been in drought conditions for the past 10 years. Currently, it is under a “Red Flag Warning” and a “Hazardous Weather Outlook” statement has been issued. These warnings indicate that the chances for wildfires are extremely high given the drought conditions and the gusting winds across the area. The Elko, NV Regional Precipitation Table (both current and past) can be found here: http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/total_forecast/getprod.php?wfo=lkn&pil=RTP&sid=LKN&version=5. Precipitation maps for the past month can be seen here: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/rfcshare/precip_analysis_new.php.
And lastly (for the moment) – there were the campers out by the next nearest water source – the river. Apparently, in light of all of the criticism regarding land closures (not just from advocates but also from those who use the lands for recreation) the BLM utilized the “tightest and smallest land area closure as necessary in order to facilitate the gather process”. They kept the length of times as small as they could, as well as the amount of acreage that would be closed as small as they could while still trying to make sure no one would be hurt by a herd of horses galloping their direction. These closures were all done by the Tuscarora Field Office. Idaho officials were not involved.
The contractor performed a fly-over of the area in order to locate other possible sources of water for the horses, i.e. which one would be closest to get water to the horses. Unfortunately, there were campers from the Idaho side that crossed into the area and had set up camp next to the river where the horses would normally receive their water when other sources were dry. Because of the camp, the horses would not approach the river, and therefore were becoming very dehydrated. The contractor promptly returned to base and informed the gather officials of the situation, who then in turn contacted the Ranger’s office who of course went out and told the campers to vacate the area. No word yet on whether or not the horses moved towards the river or not.
Bottom Line: This area is a fire pit of rich-lighter-pine just waiting for a spark. (Rich-lighter-pine in the South is the equivalent of whatever the North has that burns good, hot, and fast LOL.) Talk has been spread around about whether or not an Emergency Gather should have taken place a month ago due to the range conditions. Whether advocates like it or not, BLM does have authority over the horses. Whether advocates choose to believe it or not, BLM does conduct some gathers that are really in the best interest of the horses and no one else. This gather has already had casualties and it’s only a few days along, a high number of casualties when comparatively speaking. The area is dry. The horses have good body condition scores, but remember – BCS measures physical, objective ratings that are seen from the outside of the body. Yes, these are indicators of what is happening inside the body, but without further examination and tests the true nature of a physiological or pathophysiological condition cannot be known for certain. These are just a few resources regarding this subject:
- Assessing Health & Well-Being of Horses Colleen Brady, Ed Pajor, Janice Sojka, Nicole Buck, John Berends, Mark Russell Department of Animal Sciences, Purdue University; Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Purdue University; and Department of Animal Science, Michigan State University
- Vitat Signs: Temperature, Pulse and Respiration in a Horse
- Importance of Water to Horses Dr. Jim and Lynda McCall
More details to come as I get them.