A battle is raging out West where animal rights activists fought unsuccessfully to halt a wild horse roundup after the deaths of 13 mustangs.
On Friday a federal judge in Nevada lifted a temporary restraining order he issued Wednesday, saying the government could resume its roundup today. Federal officials said 500 horses could die of dehydration if the roundup did not proceed.
Activists protested the roundup, saying that the temperatures and drought had weakened the horses, particularly young horses and mares that had recently given birth or were about to deliver.
The Bureau of Land Management, which has brought in 12,000 gallons of water which the horses are for unknown reasons not drinking, blame the deaths on the drought not the roundup.
The BLM suspended the roundup last weekend when seven horses died of dehydration and water intoxication after being herded by helicoptor on the first day of the roundup. Five other horses died of similar causes and one horse with a broken leg was destroyed. Three foals were among the dead.
The 228 horses gathered last weekend were among up to 1,200 mustangs the agency plans to remove from the range. It will make them available for adoption or send them to long-term holding facilities in the Midwest, the Associated Press reports.
The federal government defends the round ups as a way to curb horse population to protect horses running out of food and to protect the range and its wildlife from the horses. But activists contend the horse removal is really aimed at making room for livestock and other interests. BLM estimates that roughly 38,000 mustangs and burros roam 10 Western states and half are in Nevada. To better manage the herd its wants to reduce their numbers by 12,000.