Helicopter roundup gets attention of horse advocates

Horses1

By Patti Carpenter

In spite of efforts by the Cloud Foundation, an advocacy organization for wild horses based in Colorado, approximately 40 stray horses on BLM land north of Greybull were rounded up by helicopters and are currently being held at a stockyard in Shelby, Mont. According to Ginger Kathrens, founder of the Cloud Foundation, the horses are on their way to a slaughterhouse in Canada.

Sara Beckwith of the BLM Cody Office said that since the horses were not wild mustangs, the BLM did not conduct any public meetings prior to the roundup, which took place on March 18 and 19. She said the horses were a herd that procreated over as many as 40 years out of domestic horses that were abandoned in the area throughout the years.

“These horses were very wild in their behavior, much wilder than the wild horses, actually. That is why a helicopter roundup was necessary,” said Beckwith. “Regular wild horses go willingly into bait traps.”

Beckwith was adamant that the horses were domestic horses and were in no way connected to any of the nearby wild horse herds.

“I want to emphasize that these horses were not part of the McCullough Peaks herd or any wild mustang herd. Since those herds are managed using fertility control, it is no longer necessary to do this type of large scale gather with them.”

Beckwith said the roundup was conducted by Cattoor Livestock Roundup, Inc., based in Nephi, Utah. She indicated that the roundup was done in cooperation with the Wyoming State Livestock Board and Cattoor is the only company the state uses.

Catoor states on its website that it is in the business of helping capture, process, and transport wild horses, burros and wild cattle in “the most humane way possible.”

“We have been contracting wild horse roundups for the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and private individuals since 1975. We have humanely captured over 150,000 wild horses, wild burros and wild cattle during these 35 years,” states the company’s website.

“Over the years, we have purchased and built equipment, developed techniques and learned the best methods to assure the safety of the animals.  We employ experienced helicopter pilots and wranglers that really care about the animals. All of this minimizes the stress on the animals during wild horse roundups.”

Beckwith said the horses were inspected for brands and a notice was published in local newspapers prior to the roundup. A notice appeared in the Greybull Standard on March 6 and in the Basin Republican Rustler on March 13. The state also published a general notice regarding stray livestock in both newspapers on Jan. 2. She said since no one stepped forward to claim the horses, they were sold to the highest bidder.

Though Beckwith stated the horses were not sold for slaughter, an investigation conducted by Paula Todd King, Communications Director of the Cloud Foundation, revealed that the horses were sold to Bouvry Exports, a large Canadian slaughterhouse that also owns the stockyard where the horses are currently being held in Shelby, Mont.

Wyoming Dept. of Livestock brand inspector Frank Barrett confirmed that 41 horses were rounded up in an area south of Sheep Mountain. He said he inspected for brands and observed Cattoor round up the horses using helicopters and then loading them into large horse trailers.  He said the horses were then taken to a livestock auction yard in Worland, where the horses were separated by category and by sex and held in separate pens. He also confirmed that the horses were sold to a single buyer, Bouvry, and taken to the stockyard owned by Bouvry in Shelby. He said he was not aware of the company being in the slaughter business.

Barrett said he was surprised to see the horses were fat and looked good physically. He said the horses were “educated,” and therefore difficult to capture, since they had been chased in the past by motorists, four-wheelers and people on horseback.

“I wouldn’t necessarily call them afraid,” he said. “I would say they were smarter than average, which made them hard to round up.”

He said he was impressed with the Cattoor operation.

“I personally couldn’t have handled it as well as they did,” he said.

Cloud Foundation founder Ginger Kathrens said she felt heartbroken that rescue organizations were not given the opportunity to adopt the horses and save them from slaughter.

“I think it is inhumane that they weren’t even given a chance to be adopted,” said Kathrens. “It doesn’t matter if they were technically wild or not, this was not kind or fair.”

Kathrens said a representative of the Cloud Foundation contacted the stockyard in Shelby owned by Bouvry and offered to purchase the horses. She said the offer was refused and the representative was told that the horses would go to slaughter as planned.

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