In the northeast corner of Northern California sits the Modoc National Forest, which is home to thousands of wild horses who roam the land. But as the population of the wild horses grew significantly over the past decade, officials have began rounding up the horses in order to achieve ecological balance within the land.
Sun J Livestock Inc. has been contracted by the Forest Service to begin rounding up 500 wild horses in area known as Devil’s Garden, a controversial tactic that some believe could send the mustangs to the glue factory. It’s the second round up since the inauguration of the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory Management Plan, which hopes to decrease wild horse numbers in order to avoid problems associated with overpopulation. In October 2018, officials rounded up nearly 1,000 mustangs in the same area.
Approximately 300 horses will be kept at the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals in Alturas, Calif. and approximately 200 will be sent to the Litchfield Corrals for placement through BLM processes.
The first day of the 2019 gather went well. Thirteen studs and six mares were gathered yesterday. Due to wildfire activity, the trap location is being moved this morning and it is unknown at this time when operations and public viewing will commence. pic.twitter.com/Bz7YlwRA41— USFS-Modoc (@ModocNF) September 6, 2019
There’s controversy surrounding the horse gather as animal rights activists wonder what they’ll do with the horses once they’re captured. The American Wild Horse Campaign is concerned that although the horses will be put up for adoption, a legal loophole will allow slaughterhouses to get their hands on the animals.
The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) has continuously criticized the Forest Service during the round ups, claiming it isn’t doing enough to keep the horses safe from slaughter.
Prior to the initial roundup, nearly 4,000 wild horses roamed the land of 250,000 acres at the northeast corner of the state, a number much too large for the area with limited food and water.
“Our territory is supposed to have 206 to 402 animals, we have almost 4,000 horses,” Modoc National Forest Supervisor Amanda McAdams said in a statement. “It sounds like a lot of acres for 4,000 horses, but there’s not a lot of vegetation and not a lot of water.”
The horses were made available for adoption but due to the large amount of them, the older horses were not chosen to adopt from a private party. The AWHC has attempted to stall the sale of the horses to slaughterhouses at every turn.
“The Forest Service has shown a complete lack of regard for California law, the intent of Congress and the will of the public by proposing to sell wild horses for slaughter. We’re taking every possible stop to ensure that the Forest Service cannot proceed with this terrible and illegal plan,” Grace Kuhn, spokeswoman for the American Wild Horse Campaign, said in a statement.
The AWHC still argues the roundups have no merit, claiming the large stretch of land could inhabit a large population of horses.
“There is no scientific basis for the claim that 500 square-mile habitat can only support 400 wild horses. It’s simply false,” said Kuhn. “The only reason the USFS is claiming that is because they’re forcing federally-protected wild horses to compete with 8,000 privately-owned cattle and sheep. They are treating our public lands like a private feedlot for subsided ranchers.”
In 1998, Proposition 6 was passed in California, making it a felony to sell horses to a slaughterhouse.