Sunday, August 14, 2011

Donkeys: Stupid/Stubborn? Not!

     by Carol Knight Watson
On the One Hand, Doing It Right
On the Other, Abuses
Arla M. Ruggles, working with Grass Roots Horse, attended the 
first day of the wild horse roundup at Triple B Complex in Nevada and reported that the Bureau of Land Management has made definite improvements in its roundup practices. But then, 15 days into the roundup, disturbing abuses of wild horse foals took place. 
Be sure to see both reports at the end of this post.

     Down through history, donkeys, along with snakes, rats, and many insects, have been given a bum rap for various reasons: misinformation, false assumptions, human-centered fallacies, preconceived notions, generalizations, insufficient information, ignorance, personal rationalizations, prejudice, acceptance of someone else’s opinion as fact, acceptance of consensus, and probably many more. I am just beginning to learn a little more about snakes, rats, and insects, but I feel I am somewhat of an authority on donkeys, having loved them, cared for them, and lived closely with them for 34 years. 

We think they’re stubborn; they think they’re cautious.  

     The above adage was one of the first and best I learned when I decided to adopt a wild burro and began to learn about them. Probably, the most widely held concept of them is that they are stupid and/or stubborn. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are, in fact, very intelligent and, indeed, are cautious. With their highly developed sense of self-preservation, they make decisions based on their own comprehension of a particular situation. If they think they are in immediate danger, they do not react hysterically but generally will run a short distance and reassess the conditions. Rather than being sluggish dolts, with their desert heritage, donkeys have an inherent trait to conserve energy. So, it is rational for them to have little interest in moving any faster than necessary. They will occasionally run just for the sheer joy of running, usually in play; and they will certainly protect their territory and chase away trespassers. In comparing the usual speed of the donkey to that of various other animals, the figures might look something like this:
In the water:                                   
          sailfish, 68 mph  

          blue shark, 43 mph
          killer whale, 35 mph                          
          barracuda, 27 mph                     
          sea lion, 25 mph
          dolphin, 24 mph                            
          trout, 5 mph

          man, 5 mph
Peregrine Falcon
     In the air:
          spine-tailed swift, 105 mph
          homing pigeon, 95 mph (This bird can maintain a high rate of speed for long distances. One averaged 73 mph over a distance of 182 miles, and several have flown over 90 mph for distances of at least 80 miles.)
          peregrine falcon, 70 mph (diving speed: 200+ mph)                           
          hummingbird, 60 mph (Amazing!)

          bald eagle, 44 mph
          mallard duck, 40 mph: cruising speed (flies up to 60 mph)
          woodcock, 5 mph

     On land:
          cheetah, 70 mph (From a standstill, this cat can accelerate to 45 mph in 2 seconds and cover a distance of 65 yards but will be exhausted after several hundred yards. He can run comfortably at 30-40 mph for as long as half an hour.)
          pronghorn antelope, 60 mph (When chased by a car, one pronghorn maintained a speed of 60 mph for 2 miles before dropping to 50 mph and then slacking off to a running speed of 40 mph. He can average 35 mph for distances as great as 27 miles.)
          lion, 50 mph 
          red fox, 48 mph
          horse, 48 mph

          jackrabbit, 45 mph
          greyhound, 45 mph
          ostrich, 44 mph
          coyote, 43 mph
          deer, 40 mph
          housecat, 30 mph
          man, 25 mph
          elephant, 25 mph: charging speed (The elephant usually walks along at 2 to 4 mph.)
          black racer snake, 4 mph

          turtle, 1/10 mph
          snail, 55 yards per hour

donkey: He wasn’t so inclined!

  ~                        ~                        ~                        ~                        ~
Eyes on the Wild Herds (from Grass Roots Horse)
Wild Horse Roundup
Triple B Complex, Nevada editor: The following report and photographs are by Arla M. Ruggles who has been out on the range for us and attended Day 1 of the Triple B wild horse roundup.
Wild Horse Roundup Day 1 (July 20, 2011)
Triple B Complex Field Report and Photographs
by Arla M. Ruggles
     In our role as advocates for better treatment of our wild herds, it often seems like only the mistakes and abuses are talked about. The worst aspects of wild horse management operations do need to be brought to light, AND we should be just as quick to recognize improvements as they occur. 
     Today, it must be said that Sun J and BLM did an excellent job in all aspects of their gather operations, and every part of the process was carried out with professionalism and skill. 

Sun J pilot, Josh Hellyer, showed marked improvement from his earlier 
performances at the Antelope Complex gather, early this past winter. 
      Throughout the day, Josh held back from the running herds, and at one point, even fell back and allowed them to rest and regroup before continuing into the jute enclosure.
     None of the horses entering the trap appeared unduly stressed, and no lather appeared.

Padded overhead rails are known to reduce injuries significantly.

     We noticed that most of the overhead railings were padded. Our BLM rep explained that the padding had been suggested as a way to reduce neck and head injuries, and they adopted this small improvement that has been incorporated into the standard setup. (One example of how speaking quietly gets better results than screaming epithets.)
     A few of the railings were missing pads, and this was also pointed out to the rep. 

Situated in a gravel pit, the gravel mounds provided
 an excellent point of vantage for wranglers.

     Today’s trap setup was unique, in that the trap and sorting corrals were directly connected to short-term holding pens. This eliminates one in a series of loading and unloading, as the horses will be taken directly to their destination in Gunnison, Utah. This not only reduces stress on the horses, it is economically advantageous.
     The pens were well supplied with fresh water and hay. A water truck from BLM Fire filled troughs and then encircled the pens with a swath of cooling spray to quell the dust. We noticed that the animals seemed undisturbed by the large truck driving around the pens, while workers on foot were frightening to them. Given that this is a mining area, the horses are used to heavy vehicles rolling through their habitat.

     The sorting process was carried out quickly and efficiently and each group of animals settled down quickly after sorting. The four-wave gather brought in eight stallions, eight dry mares, two mares with foals, and two heavily pregnant mares, for a total of 22. At the end of the day’s gather operations, we were invited to approach the holding pens. All animals were in very good condition, and no serious injuries were observed.
     It is gratifying to note that cooperative efforts between advocates and BLM have brought about some improvements in the roundup process. We can be grateful for the horses’ sakes. Such progress in dialogue bodes well for continuing efforts in the struggle to achieve a healthy equine environment and an end to mass removals of horses from their native ranges.

Wild Horse Roundup: August 4 - 6, 2011
Triple B Complex, Nevada 
by Maureen VanDerStad,
 Photographs Show Serious Abuses of Captured Foals
     As the number of deaths increases of wild horse foals captured during the Triple B wild horse “gather” currently under way in Nevada, disturbing photographic evidence of abuse of the foals has been uncovered. A “gather” is the BLM’s euphemism for a roundup.
The photos come not from public observers witnessing the roundups but from the BLM itself and appear to have a connection to a video montage covering what transpired from August 4 - 6, taken by Deniz Bolbol of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC). The video clearly showed foals being pushed, kicked, shoved, wrestled, and manhandled by the employees of the BLM’s contractor, Sun J, during trailer loading. The footage taken for AWHPC and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) shows the abusive trailer loading as well as the aggressive roping of an exhausted foal after being chased by five mounted wranglers.  That documented abuse of foals is now joined by BLM’s own photograph taken on August 5, 2011, by BLM Nevada and posted on their Flickr page. 

                                                                                        photo by BLM/Nevada
     The photograph clearly shows a foal separated in a pen at the holding corrals being hung by his neck, tied high on the top rail of the corrals. A wrangler can be seen outside the pen gate, where he appears to be waiting for the foal to be “readied for loading onto the trailer” although the caption reads, “Foal at holding corral separated for travel.” 
     “This foal, in addition to having been galloped to the point of exhaustion (and possibly one of the many foals retrieved from the range after being chased and roped by wranglers), is now tied high by his neck, isolated in a pen. As you look closely at the photograph, you see an example of not only inhumane treatment but physical abuse. The foal’s eyes are wide and the photograph, under close inspection, shows the rope in a location that appears to be cutting off the foal’s air passages,” commented Maureen VanDerStad of Grass Roots Horse. “And this is not the only photo by BLM Nevada that shows violations.”
     Ms. VanDerStad continued, “It is the responsibility of the contracting officer’s representative (COR) to assure the humane treatment and handling of the wild horses during all phases of the capture operations and to ensure that the contractor fulfills its contractual obligations. This treatment is in violation of not only the above, but of the 1971 Wild, Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the Federal Code, and Standard Operating Procedures. The COR/PIs (project inspector) need to do their assigned jobs in a conscientious manner, and we have the right to demand they do so. There is a great deal at stake.”
     Bruce Thompson, wild horse and burro specialist, is the COR/PI for the Elko, Nevada, portion of the Triple B wild horse roundup, and he can be contacted at 775-753-0286. He reports to the Elko district manager, Ken Miller (775-753-0200), regarding his responsibilities as COR/PI. 
     Ruth Thompson (775-289-1800) is the COR/PI for the Ely, Nevada, portion of the Triple B wild horse roundup. She reports to the Ely district manager, Gary Medlyn (775-289-1800).
     Dean Bolstad, deputy division chief, Wild Horse and Burro Program (775-861-6583).
     Please contact your congress people and ask that this roundup be stopped immediately and that a moratorium be placed on all wild horse and burro roundups until the necessary investigations into this program and this contractor’s personnel be conducted by an impartial and independent review team. 
     BLM’s photostream at Flickr can be seen at
     Information on public use of BLM’s digital photographs:

~                        ~                        ~                        ~                        ~
     This is our new workshop—almost complete. After 20 years, I will finally be able to get all the tools and equipment off my front and back porches and from inside my house!

     Below are “before” pictures of the old barn now being renovated. This is a big job. It looks pretty bad now, but wait till Bobby gets through with it.

     Talk to you next time. . .


Remembering Jake and Harry

                   JAKE                                              HARRY