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Wild Horses Rounded Up in the Devil’s Garden are Protected… For Now

Photo by Stacy Snow

In October 2018, officials rounded up nearly 1,000 mustangs in Modoc County’s Devil’s Garden, know for its large population of wild horses. Prior to the round up, horse activists feared the horses wouldn’t find an adopter, enabling them to be sold to slaughterhouses.

Following the end of the 30-day sale with limitations of the horses, the U.S. Forest Service has extended the period to adopt them until February 18, enabling some of the un-adopted horses to avoid the glue factory.

Approximately 100 older mustangs remain in the care of the Forest Service and a challenge from the American Wild Horse Campaign, in partnership with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, has stalled the sale without limitation until early 2019. A sale without limitation would essentially make the horses available for slaughterhouses to purchase for just $1.

“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.

Prior to the 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. 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.

Photo: U.S. Forest Service

The AWHC still argues the roundup had 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.

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