Newark Valley, Aug 24, 2011

1 Oct


Getting to the trap site

Another day of getting up at 2:00 AM, but this morning everything was ready to go: Cooler with water and food, car packed with camera gear, and coffee ready to drink! I left Arla’s at 2:45 AM. Shortly after I left, Maureen and Arla followed in the 4×4 pickup Maureen had rented. I arrived at the meeting point in Ely before 4:00 AM. Only one BLM Ranger was there when I got there and the others, Chris and Vanessa and another BLM Ranger, showed up shortly after I did. Chris Hanefeld came over and introduced himself and explained that we would go to temporary holding first to determine the location of the day’s trap site. Only the contractors knew where the site would be that day, according to Chris. The previous day, they had gathered eight horses at Ruby Lake Marsh.

Shortly after 4:00 AM, we left Ely and headed southwest out of town on route 50. Maureen and Arla were following the entourage consisting of Chris Hanefeld and Vanessa (never got her last name) from the Colorado BLM PR Department, two park rangers, and myself. Maureen and Arla had plans to skirt the trap site to find a place where they could be hidden from view in order to observe what could not be seen from there, but since they didn’t know where the day’s site was to be, they followed as close behind as they could without being noticed.
We turned right at the Ruby Lake Marsh Road, which was after the 30 mile loop road. Shortly after turning right onto Ruby Lake Marsh Road, the road became dirt, and I slowed down to accommodate the 25 mph speed limit while Chris continued on a breakneck speed. Occasionally, I would see his SUV’s rear lights and kept going; one of the Rangers was always behind me so I didn’t worry too much about where I was going. I made it to temporary holding and saw a trailer of domestic horses head down the road; the chopper was still on the ground and it was not yet light.

I kept in touch with Maureen and Arla via cell phone whenever there was a cell signal in order to relay which turn-offs were passed and give them the name of the turn-off we did take. I tracked the miles from the turn off onto Ruby Lake Road and gave them landmarks they could identify, as when the road conditions changed or crossed cattle guards. After that, Verizon cell phone service blacked out, so Maureen and Arla didn’t know about the left turn after them temporary holding compound. SunJ had three 5th wheels parked there as well as horse trailers, and the helicopter. They had also set up a round pen for the domestic horses used in the round-up.

Upon taking the left turn which was across the valley from temporary holding, the dirt road became very dusty. Not wanting to drive in the dust in the dark, I slowed down considerably hoping that Maureen and Arla would see the car lights from a distance. The road got worse! A very dusty, dirt road so bad that in the dark with headlights on there was no way to see the road. It was a worry as to how the others could see the road and follow the winding path it took. Several times I stopped to let the dust clear, as I felt they were all going too fast on a winding, dusty, rocky road –- certainly faster than I dared go in unknown territory. Huge dust clouds were created by the vehicles ahead. The road eventually became less curvy but still dusty, and I found myself on a straight road headed down the shoulder of this mountain into the valley floor.


It was not yet dawn when we got to the trap site in Newark Valley. Light peeked over the ridge to the right of us as we faced the trap site; we were facing north into the valley on land that was gently sloping upward away from the site. The dirt road continued past the trap site and made a right turn almost a mile below it; this is where one of the BLM Rangers parked his well-equipped truck. The other Ranger parked south of the trap site about a half mile or more just below the trees on the gentle slope we had just come down. I was told to park along the road across from the trap site and behind Chris Hanefeld. We headed to the observation area just south of the trap site, and had a pretty good view of the area. The view of the trap site wasn’t great, but it was the best of the three trap sites I’d been to during this trip.

Chris Hanefeld pointed out we needed to be 500 feet from the trap site and to hunker down if asked. It was possible from time to time to go back to our vehicles with a chaperone if we asked first and the chopper was not nearby. We were allowed to wander the terrain behind us to find an appropriate area to find a bush to water if we asked first.

Since I was the only observer throughout the morning’s roundup, Vanessa (BLM Colorado…I don’t think she ever gave her last name but maybe she did to the other observers), Chris Hanefeld, PR, BLM, Ely district and I were in conversation most of the time. I asked questions I knew the answers to and some that I didn’t. It was surprising that I knew the answers when he didn’t – after all, he’s in charge of answering media questions isn’t he? You’d think after ten years with BLM in the Ely district office that he would know more than he does about the wild horses in his district. Vanessa, on the other hand, is a recent employee of BLM public relations in Colorado. She is just learning the ropes and apparently just learning the lies promulgated by the existing BLM staff.

There were four bands caught this day. Each band had a foal. I’ve selected photos for each family band that was rounded up. None of these horses will be returned to the range; this is the last time you will see most of these horses, except for three that I know that are being adopted as sale authority horses by other photographers / videographers who were at the Triple B round up. (just learned that one of the sale authority horses, a black 20 year old mare, died as a result of eating the very rich alfalfa they are fed in short term holding…)

This was my third day in Nevada and it hadn’t rained in a while and was very dry everywhere. The only way to spot the horses being chased down the Newark Valley was to spot chopper dust. When the chopper drove the horses to the immediate area around the trap site, the horses would be shrouded with dust flying everywhere. In turn, as it settled on their wet bodies, the dust became cracked dust cakes on the horses’ backs.

I saw the chopper in the mountains to the east and below the trap site at 6:21 AM. In fact, all the horses chased that day were chased down from the mountains on the east side of the valley.

Everyday I saw some horses escape. When this happened I wanted to cheer them onward, but this could have gotten me thrown out of the observation area for frightening the horses. I did not ask Chris if he thought the horses would hear me scream over the din the chopper was making…

I was so far away from the trap site that there was little I could see without my camera. I brought binoculars for convenience, but my camera lens was better. Even then, it’s still hard to tell what you have seen until you can view the image on a monitor and examine the details!

[Next: temporary holding]


3 Responses to “Newark Valley, Aug 24, 2011”

  1. Barbara Warner December 9, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    Do you have any idea how far these wild horses were chased ? I heard some of the mares miscarried their foals.


    • WestDeltaGirl December 9, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

      Not exactly…However, I can check my photos for time stamps and tell you how much time between the first spotting of dust on the horizon until they arrived at the trap site. If they miscarried foals (which I’m sure they did) I doubt it was while they were running.


    • WestDeltaGirl December 9, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

      The helicopter was seen over the trapsite at 6:21 am heading north to find the horses- it was a very short time (maybe a couple of minutes before it was not visible nor could it be heard. The first time I spotted dust was at 6:59 am. At 7:05 am the first band was in the trap.

      The roundup ended shortly after noon because it was called off due to gusty wind. on the average 1 hour 15 minutes for each band to be rounded up – some took longer than the others.

      The BLM gather report for this day said :

      Wednesday, Aug. 24 Summary: The BLM gathered 18 horses today. The BLM did not ship horses today.
      Animals gathered: 18 (2 studs, 8 mares, 8 foals)
      Gather related animal deaths: 1
      Cause: A dry mare died overnight. A necropsy report indicated a heart issue. The necropsy report will be posted as soon as it’s available.
      Non-gather related animal deaths: 0
      Cause: None
      Temperature Status: Low of 66, high of 89 degrees

      On August 25 I was much better at documenting the roundups.


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