Surprise Complex Roundup, September 2023


On September 18, 2023, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will begin a roundup and removal of the wild horses from the Surprise Complex, east of Cedarville, California. A Complex is a group of Herd Management Areas in close proximity to one another. Wild horses from the High Rock, Fox Hog, and Wall Canyon will be rounded up and removed. The agency is setting a target goal of 494 wild horses to be rounded up, with approximately 404 permanently removed. All horses will be transferred to the BLM's Holding Facility at Litchfield.


ROUNDUP HAS CONCLUDED: 495 Wild Horses Captured, 16 Deaths

September 28, 2023: 17 wild horses were captured and there were two deaths after the BLM euthanized a 25-year-old stallion for poor body condition and another 25-year-old stallion for blindness in 1 eye. 

September 27, 2023: 82 wild horses were captured.

September 26, 2023: 34 wild horses were captured.

September 25, 2023: 22 wild horses were captured and there was 1 death. According to BLM: a 5-year-old mare with a leg injury was euthanized.

September 24, 2023: 40 wild horses were captured and there were two deaths. According to BLM: 

  • 11-year-old mare with abscessed and infected left front hoof. Horse was lame; mobility was heavily impacted.    
  • Mare over 25 years old in poor body condition (BCS 1 to 2). No teeth and very weak. 

September 23, 2023: 103 wild horses were captured and there were four deaths. According to BLM:

  • 20-year-old stallion. Blind. 
  • 3-year-old mare with ruptured eye socket 
  • 3-year-old mare, severe rupture in anus area. 
  • 2-month-old foal with right leg injury and poorly fused previous bone break.  

September 22, 2023: 82 wild horses were captured and there was 1 death after the BLM euthanized a six-month-old horse was euthanized due to blindness. Poor prognosis for recovery.

I met the BLM at 5:30 AM in Cedarville, CA. The temperature was 25°F with a light dusting of snow. At 7:20, we pulled off the road about 50 miles away to allow the BLM to finish setting up the trap. We then proceeded to the observation area, which required a short hike from the vehicles. We set up near High Rock Reservoir, with a clear view of the trap, wings, and loading area. The viewing conditions were much better compared to the previous two days.

The first horse run came in at 10:55 AM, with approximately 15 horses. The pilot refueled and went back out. The second run occurred at 12:31 PM, with around 6 horses. After refueling, the pilot returned at 2:48 PM. This time, approximately 39 to 40 horses were brought in. The pilot had been working these horses towards the trap for a few hours, staying behind and slowly guiding them in. The horses seemed tired in their movements. The wind was at 2.6 mph, and the temperature was around 78°F.

At 4:13 PM, another group of 15 horses came in. Throughout all the runs, the horses remained calm and loaded well into the trap. We called it a day and proceeded to the temporary holding area.

However, the snow fencing limited our viewing options. Although we were given a walk around the temporary holding area, it didn't provide any additional access to view the horses. As we passed by, the horses seemed a bit spooked, possibly because they could hear us but not see us.

Overall, the trap appeared to be well-constructed at this site, unlike a few days ago. The horses came in without any issues, and even when larger numbers were brought in, they remained calm. I didn't witness any horses hitting panels or attempting to jump out of the catch pen. They were loaded onto trailers quietly, and there were no reported injuries.  

September 21, 2023: 19 Wild Horses Captured

I met with BLM personnel in Cedarville, California at 5:30 a.m. and followed them to the observation area, which was the same location as yesterday, about 42 miles away.

We arrived at 7:05 am and it was quite cold, with a temperature of 25°F. At 8:13 a.m., I spotted a helicopter in the far distance, and at 8:34 a.m., I saw two horses.

There was a larger group initially, but they split off. At 8:40 a.m., the helicopter refueled. By 10:00 a.m., I couldn't see or hear the helicopter anymore, but at 10:40 a.m., I could hear it in the distance again.

At 10:50 am, I spotted seven horses. The helicopter refueled again and I could only see the approach, not the trap or the wings. It seems like the pilot hovers over the catchpen for a few seconds longer than necessary when bringing the horses in.

At 11:06 am, the trailer left for temporary holding, and at 1:35 p.m., it came back for fuel. At 2:48 pm, eight horses came in. The temperature had risen to 48°F. We called it a day.

I noticed that the driver of the livestock truck carrying the horses from the previous run to temporary holding was traveling at a high rate of speed as he passed by. This seemed too fast considering that the horses had just come off the range and had never been on a trailer before, so they were already traumatized. We will be using a new trap site tomorrow. 

September 20, 2023: 27 Horses Captured, 3 Deaths.

In Cedarville, CA, we met with the BLM at 8:00 AM. We reached the observation area by 10:00 AM, but the trap was set below a rise, making it difficult to see. The wind might pose a problem today.

The horses were perspiring as they arrived at the observation area. The first run began at 10:00 am but the horses did not come into view until 12:02 PM, followed by the second group at 1:30 PM, and the third group at 2:30 PM. Unfortunately, it was challenging to see the horses due to the distance and heat waves.

The pilot ran three horses down into the wash and then flew in a different direction. The temperature was 73°F with winds blowing at 14 mph. At 12:02 p.m., the first run consisted of 16 horses, but they had to stop to refuel. They were back in the air by 12:05 p.m. At 1:30 p.m., the pilot pushed another group toward the trap. The stallion tried to lead his family away from the trap, but they all went in. The stallion continued into the trap on his own, attempting to get them out. The pilot pursued him until finally allowing him to walk off in the direction they were brought in. The stallion kept looking back to see if any of his family members were able to escape. It was heartbreaking to watch.

At 2:15 p.m., another small group was brought in, and by 2:30 p.m., they called it a day. At 3:15 PM, they went to the temporary holding area, but there were still limited viewing opportunities due to the snow fencing.

The BLM euthanized 3 additional horses. 

  • 20-year-old mare with cancer of the eye 
  • 3-year-old mare in poor body condition 
  •  2-year-old stallion with a spinal deformity 

September 19, 2023: 25 Horses Captured, 1 left dead 

I met with BLM at 4:30 a.m. in Cedarville, CA. We followed them to the same trap site as yesterday. The first run came in at 8:30 am, followed by the second run around 10:00 am, and the third run around 12:30 pm. Each run had only a few horses, and the pilot had some difficulty getting the horses into the trap during the third run.

Unfortunately, I couldn't see the pilot behind the mountain, so I could only gauge their presence by ear. The horses appeared tired and sweaty as they came in. We left for holding at 1:00 pm and waited for the trailer to arrive with the horses.

The pilot was attempting to make one more run as we left. We arrived at temporary holding at 3:30 pm and had to wait until after 5:00 pm for the trailer to arrive. Finally, around 5:15 pm, the trailer arrived, which meant that the horses that came in at 12:30 pm had been waiting in the trailer the entire time since they were loaded at the trap before I left.

I watched the horses get unloaded, and a few of them had minor injuries. We learned that the BLM euthanized a 25-year-old staliion for having a low BCS and a "pre-existing leg injury".

Tomorrow, we will be moving to a new trap site.

September 18, 2023: Day 1 Results in 44 wild horses captured, 2 left dead

We met in Cedarville, CA at 4:30 a.m. and followed BLM Personnel to the trap site, which was approximately 50 miles away. We arrived at 7:30 a.m. and took a short hike up the hill from our vehicles to get set up.

The contractors watered down the trap area. The first run occurred at 8:39 a.m. During the second attempt, we saw 5 horses coming down through the draw, but they split up and went in different directions. The second run happened at 12:27 p.m.

While the trailers went by, I noticed that one of them had a small 4 runner in the back, which caused the horses to have very little room. The short-term holding area was at a good distance from the trap.

We left the observation area at 1 p.m. to go to the temporary holding facility. After we left, a run of 11 horses came in.

At the temporary holding facility, the corrals were completely covered in snow fencing, making it impossible to see inside. We were not offered a walk-around. From what I could see, there was a Palomino horse with an eye injury.