26 horses die during first half of Calico Mountain roundup

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A federal agency is defending its efforts to round up wild horses in western lands after the deaths of 26 animals near Reno Nevada. KPCC's Molly Peterson reports.

The Bureau of Land Management began the roundup in late December, and it's continuing through February.

The agency wants to remove what it calls excess horses on federal lands in the Calico Mountains in northern Nevada near the California border.

Federal scientists say the number of horses roaming in there is three times the lands’ carrying capacity. The government has authorized plans to gather 25-hundred horses from half a million acres of land; the roundup is about halfway done.

Federal workers herd horses and chase them with helicopters to drive them into corrals. The land bureau had anticipated that half a percent of horses would die in the process.

The death rate is more than 3 times that so far. Horse activists denounce the techniques herders use to gather horses. But officials with the agency officials say it's been in the business of roundups for 4 decades - and that it’s learned how to safely conduct the roundups.