Roundup Report: Desatoya, Sept 2023


On Monday, September 25, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will begin a helicopter roundup and removal of wild horses from the Desatoya Herd Management Area (HMA), 77 miles east of Fallon, Nevada. The operation is classified as a “catch, treat, and release” roundup where the primary goal is to capture wild horses to administer fertility control and then release them back to the wild. AWHC questions the broad use of Gonacon, as there are very few scientific studies on its effects on wild horses, and has the potential to permanently sterilize the treated animals.

The agency will grant taxpayer funds in the amount of $214,000 to private contractor Rocking A Livestock to conduct a controversial helicopter removal of an estimated 24 wild horses and the BLM will treat up to 49 additional mares (females) with the fertility control vaccine, Gonacon. 

Animals removed from the Desatoya Herd Management Area will be made available for adoption or purchase at Palomino Valley Off-Range Wild Horse and Burro Corrals, located in Reno, NV through the Wild Horse and Burro Adoption and Sales Program. 


September 30, 2023: 13 stallions were released

We arrived at the meet location at 6:00 a.m., which is about 45 minutes from Fallon NV off US HWY 50. We drove to the release location and it was raining pretty steadily. 

 We waited for the contractor to arrive with the 13 stallions that they were releasing back onto the Desatoya HMA. He pulled up with the trailer waited for us to be ready and opened the back of the trailer. The first stallion seemed to be a little confused by his surroundings but once they were all out of the trailer they ran off on the range.

September 29, 2023: six wild horses were captured 

I arrived at the meeting point at 5:30 a.m. I then followed the Bureau of Land Management to the observation site. We arrived at the observation site at 7:00 a.m. and were told to sit in the vehicle as the BLM was unsure if the helicopter would fly. 

We were placed very far from the trap and we could only see if we zoomed in on our cameras. The below video shows the distance.

Around 9:00 am the Ranger informed us that the helicopter was coming in with horses. The operator attempted to push the horses into the trap area however they ran over the jute and a mare and a younger horse were perused by the helicopter.

As the pilot kept chasing the mare the wranglers came out to rope the younger horse. After a few failed attempts both the pilot and the wranglers gave up and both ran off into an area where there were trees. 

We were told again to sit in the vehicles until someone would tell us otherwise. The BLM was conducting a meeting in regards to the impending government shutdown and that material was not for the public. 

Around 1:30 or 2 the helicopter brought in a few more horses and we were told he was done for the day. 

We could go to temp holding as long as we stayed on the public road since it was on private land. We were placed on the road about 3/4ths of a mile from the temp holding pen Before we left we were told that it was the last day of the Desatoya gather but tomorrow and that they would be releasing the stallions tomorrow.

September 28, 2023: 14 wild horses were rounded up

September 27, 2023: 14 wild horses were captured.

September 26, 2023: 15 wild horses captured

We met the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at Middlegate at 5am. They led us to the observation site, which was the same as yesterday's.

The weather was mild, with temperatures ranging from 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and light winds of 2mph.

The helicopter took off at 7 a.m. At 8:20 am, five horses arrived at the trap area.

At 8:30 a.m., the saddle horses were loaded onto a trailer and left through the trap area. I was informed that a mare and foal were roped without any issues or injuries.The mare seemed nervous and was the only horse I saw in the trailer. The wranglers on saddle horses returned, but I couldn't determine if the foal was with them from my position.

At 8:33 a.m., they came in to refuel. At 9:00 a.m., the helicopter landed at the trap, and everyone gathered around the loading area. They switched out the trailer to one with side panels.

The CAWP team stood on the hill, and I was told that nothing significant had occurred.

Meanwhile, a smaller horse repeatedly tried to jump over the panel at the back while everyone's attention was focused on the front area.

At 10:35 a.m., the helicopter took off again but seemed to have difficulty getting the next group of horses in. Three horses emerged over the hill near where the CAWP team was situated, but the helicopter did not pursue them further. They called it a day after that. 


September 25, 2023: 10 Horses Captured on Day 1

We were situated approximately half a mile from the trap, an observation area was set up behind an opening between two hills. The trap was designed for horses running in from the valley floor. The location was about 60 miles east of Fallon, NV in Lander County.

From the observation area, only the trap itself was visible, while the wings and runs leading to the trap were not. Hiking up a short distance from the vehicles allowed a view of the catch pen and loading area, but not the wings or alleyway of the trap.

Upon arrival at the Middlegate station at 7:00 am, BLM personnel were met, and then a drive of approximately 40 miles east of Middlegate was made to reach the observation area. The roads were mostly well-maintained and in good condition.

Shortly after arrival, a helicopter was seen to the east with one horse underneath, although no pursuit was made. The first run of horses came in at 10:05 am, consisting of three horses. The second run occurred at 10:32 am, involving two horses, followed by another run at 12:08 pm with two horses. Around 12:30 pm, the wind caused issues with getting the horses into the wings of the trap, as the flapping jute scared them away. Due to the wind, the day's operations were called off. A tour of the trap was allowed, and a total of 10 horses were gathered throughout the runs.

It was mentioned that the CAWP Team was expected to be present at the roundup, although it was unclear if they were there that day. Trailer height adjustments needed to be made before loading the horses, resulting in the first few runs being loaded onto the trailer at 11:00 am, but not leaving the site until almost 2:00 pm. The horses could remain on the trailer for up to 3 hours, with the goal of filling it.

The trap size was small, possibly due to not expecting large horse groups considering the Appropriate Management Level (AML). Temporary holding was not accessible as it was located on private property owned by Smith Creek Ranch, which did not grant permission. Mares scheduled for treatment would be held onsite at temporary holding for 30 days until they receive boosters.

Mares treated with PZP in 2019 were identified with an FC brand, while mares treated with GonaCon in 2021 had both an FC brand and a microchip for identification purposes. Two mares with an FC brand were gathered, but it was not yet known which treatment they received. No foals were observed or rounded up during the roundup.

Due to the limited view from the observation area, it was not possible to determine the conditions of the horses, such as if they were sweating or not.