VALE – Due to extreme drought conditions, the Bureau of Land Management Vale District will begin an emergency helicopter gather of wild horses within and immediately adjacent to the Barren Valley Complex beginning September 8.

“They are dying for lack of water and food,” said Shaney Rockefeller, Vale Wild Horse Specialist. “A large percentage of the horses are emaciated and dehydrated.”

The complex is located in southern Malheur and Harney Counties and includes Coyote Lake/Alvord-Tule Springs, Sheepshead/Heath Creek and Sand Springs Herd Management Areas. The three areas are managed as a complex because horses routinely move between the three areas, which span nearly 1 million acres.

In June 2021, approximately 2500 wild horses were counted in the complex. The Appropriate Management Level – the number of horses the range can sustainably support in conjunction with other animals and resource uses – for this area is 459-892 horses. Local ranchers are assisting the BLM with providing water to the horses, which are scattered across nearly a million acres of rangeland.

The Wild-Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 gives BLM the direction for protecting and overseeing wild horses and burros on public lands. In managing these animals, the BLM works to maintain a thriving ecological balance that supports healthy horses on healthy rangelands that provide adequate habitat, forage and water for horses, wildlife, including Greater Sage-grouse, and livestock.

Animals gathered from the range will be transported to BLM’s Off-Range Wild Horse and Burro Corrals in Bruneau, Idaho, and Reno, Nev. About 100 horses will be selected for return to the range when conditions allow. The remaining horses will be prepared for adoption or sale into private care or long-term holding.

When possible, the media and public will be allowed to observe the gather. For more information regarding viewing, contact gather Public Affairs Specialist Larisa Bogardus at or (541) 523-1407. Viewing will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis, with no more than 15 viewers allowed per day.

The gather is expected to last 30 days, though exact start and end dates will be determined by the contractor’s availability.

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