Roundup Report: Silver King HMA (Feb 2021)

Starting on February 5, 2021, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will begin to remove approximately 283 wild horses and permanently remove approximately 258 from the Silver King Herd Management Area in eastern Nevada. The agency stated that it plans to treat up to 25 mares with the fertility control vaccine GonaCon-Equine and release them back into the HMA.

The BLM is using helicopters to round up the mustangs. Once removed, the BLM states that the horses will be transported to the Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Center in Reno, Nevada, where they will be readied for adoption or sale.

The Silver King HMA consists of 574,962 acres of BLM land and 498 acres of a mix of private and other public lands for a total of 575,460 acres. The BLM estimates that the population for the Silver King HMA is approximately 343 wild horses, which includes the 2020 foal crop. The Appropriate Management Level (AML) for Silver King is a mere 60-128 wild horses.  

The BLM is willfully misleading the public when it claims that nearly 900 square miles can only support between 60-128 wild horses. The agency does not apply the same scrutiny to the thousands of livestock and sheep that it is permitting to graze on allotments within the horses’ habitat.

When the operation begins, AWHC will have a field representative on the ground to document and report back to you. Reports will be located here.

Related information:


February 16, 2021: 34 wild horses were captured today. This concluded the roundup and removal of wild horses from the Silver King HMA which resulted in the loss of freedom for 285 mustangs and the loss of life for 3.

  • We were at a new trap site, near Cathedral Gorge State Park.
  • We were told some of the runs would be on public land, and some roping might occur on private because it is near the highway
  • Only about 3 runs.
  • The first run: 4 horses. 2 horses collided as the ones on the left may have seen the jute.
  • The second run: A group of 5.
  • It became increasingly windy throughout the day.

February 15, 2021: 8 wild horses were captured today.

February 14, 2021: 30 wild horses were captured today. The total so far is 243 captured and three deaths.

February 13, 2021: There was no operation today due to weather.

February 12, 2021: 12 wild horses were captured and there was one death.

A 12-year-old mare was euthanized by BLM due to "gastric ulcers".

Our view of trap was really poor. Trees obscured, and the angle was only of some horses once they were in the pen.

Our field representative brought up the BLM the bad view, and asked if he could be closer. He was told he could not be closer because of the "proximity to the helicopter when it refuels". After the first run, the helicopter tried to land and couldn't because of trees, so they moved the fuel truck behind us. Now that the fuel truck was in a different location, he asked to move to a better observation point, and was told "no you'll be too close." 

He could see the horses running into the panels over and over, in particular a white/grey horse.

February 11, 2021: 37 wild horses lost their freedom and 2 wild horses lost their lives.

A 13-year-old stallion was euthanized by BLM for missing a left eye, and a 10-year-old mare was euthanized due to "blindness".

February 10, 2021: 2 wild horses were captured today.

February 9, 2021: 56 wild horses were captured today.

  • AWHC's Field Rep was the only observer in the field today. Far out 1 hour drive deep into public lands
  • Again we were only allowed to view the Silver King roundup and not the simultaneous Eagle Complex operation.
  • We were close, about 1/3rd of a mile from the trap site. But as the day went on heatwaves from evaporation blotted everything out.
  • The helicopter contractors pushed the horses really fast with 2 helicopters. They did run after run, bringing the horses in usually at a run; only a few times did they walk in.
  • It was estimated that the operation would last for 2-3 weeks, but it looks like it will be cut much shorter.

The Runs:

  • A number of small and medium-size runs, and one or two large bands.
  • At one point a white mare ran right towards us as she evaded, passing within 80 feet, she was beautiful to see. 
  • Wranglers on horseback went out to catch a foal.
  • As the day went on, it became hard to clearly see, with so many heatwaves it was all blotted out.
  • High wind did not stop the helicopters. 
  • With a looming rainstorm and sunset approaching, we finally stopped at 4 pm or 4:30 pm. This is unusually long.

February 7, 2021: 41 wild horses were captured today.

Today is the first day of the Silver King roundup. The Eagle roundup also happened simultaneously across the highway. Cattoor is the contractor for Silver King HMA, SunJ is the contractor for Eagle HMA. Oddly the BLM did not wait until the conclusion of Eagle before starting Silver King; also as the BLM is letting the public observe only one roundup at a time, we were unable to view the Eagle operation. BLM says it only has the personnel to take public to one of the two operations; which means the public cannot view 50% of the gathers by running them concurrently.

Today AWHC's representative and another member of the public were onsite. 

  • The road to trap was very long, about an hour's drive.
  • We had cows cross the road in front of us.
  • The observation itself was from a water spring used for cows, and evidence of piping brought in for the cattle.
  • Our observation was decent, however, the heat waves made it difficult to view.
  • The contractors did not have a water truck, and the runs were very dusty.
  • The helicopter was pushing horses by swooping in close and hard at the horses to go into the trap, which causes the dust to kick up a lot more.
  • As a result of being pushed hard and fast into trap the horses become agitated, confused, and run into the pen panels frequently.
  • Horses also fought each other in the pen. The dust progressively got worse as the day went on. It was a warm day.


We were able to visit holding after, as the unofficial 'policy' of the regional BLM is to bring people to holding if (a) it is the first day of a gather, or (b) there is a new member of public on-site, and not to bring people every day to holding.

At holding we were a bit rushed, frequently told to "move along" and "catch up" and "let's go we gotta keep it moving" even though I was a number of steps ahead of the other member of the public and was only pausing for brief moments to snap a photo. He was not able to view the condition of the horses from our distance, and I was unable to see if there was water in the troughs.