LAS VEGAS — Federal land managers said Monday they'll delay a roundup of most of the nearly 600 wild horses in a range in eastern Nevada, at least until after the herd's spring foaling season.
Advocates fighting to stop mustang roundups in the West said they think their threat to file a lawsuit stopped the U.S. Bureau of Land Management from beginning a roundup next week of almost 500 wild horses in the Eagle Herd Management Area.
"We're pleased that the BLM has postponed another ill-conceived, illegal and inhumane wild horse roundup," said William Spriggs, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer for In Defense of Animals based in San Rafael, Calif.
Spriggs said by telephone that he's seeking a moratorium on roundups until Congress reviews whether the government should continue removing horses from the range.
But Chris Hanefeld, spokesman for the BLM office in Ely, wouldn't link Spriggs' threat to sue in Washington with the bureau decision in Nevada to postpone the Eagle herd area gather. It had been scheduled to begin Feb. 14.
"We're responding to the many comments we've received," Hanefeld said, citing some 9,000 public comments submitted after the BLM announced that it planned to collect more than 80 percent of the animals in the Eagle herd area.
"We determined it was prudent to defer it to wait until after foaling season," he said.
Spriggs maintains that the BLM roundups traumatize, injure and kill mustangs and violate a 1971 law enacted by Congress to protect the horses.
Bureau officials say the roundups are necessary to reduce an overpopulation of horses that harms native wildlife and the range, and threatens the herds with starvation.
Ruth Thompson, BLM wild horse and burro specialist in Ely, said officials believe the Eagle herd range from east of Panaca to the Utah state line can sustain about 100 to 210 wild horses.
The bureau last week finished rounding up more than 1,900 of about 2,500 horses from a larger Calico Mountains complex north of Reno. Officials are preparing the captured animals for adoption or transfer to pastures in the Midwest.
Hanefeld said BLM officials are considering what to do about some 50 horses that have moved outside the Eagle and nearby Silver King herd management areas in eastern Nevada and are said to threaten the safety of motorists on U.S. 93 near Pioche.
He said no horse roundups would be conducted without public notice.