Report Emphasizes Need For A Safety Buffer Between Aircraft And
A report from the American Association of Equine
Practitioners BLM (Bureau Of Land Management) Task Force indicates
that pilots engaged in the roundup of wild mustangs using
helicopters should keep a significant safety buffer between their
aircraft and the animals.
The caution is part of a 35-page report focusing on the
treatment of the wild horses, which are regularly rounded up in
Nevada. The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports that a judge
recently issues a temporary restraining order requiring the pilots
to maintain a "safe distance" from the mustangs. Horse protection
advocates has asked the judge for the ruling.
The group said it had a video showing a horse being hit by the
landing skid of a helicopter engaged in a roundup conducted August
11th, a charge that BLM denies. The judge said regardless of
whether the horse was actually hit, the pilot flew "dangerously or
unreasonably" close to the animal in violation of federal law
protecting wild horses.
In its report, the task force found that: "Based on observations
of five gather days in the high desert country in Wyoming and
Nevada, the use of helicopters to herd horses to a trap was judged
humane, efficient and effective.
"On some drives during the Adobe Town/Salt Wells Creek Complex
gather, the helicopter flew in a close horizontal plane to the
trailing horses as the group approached the trap. The helicopter
was also close to the ground in a vertical plane on some of these
final trap drives. Flying patterns observed during the Pine Nuts
HMA and Antelope Complex gathers were more conservative: the
helicopter maintained a longer distance away from the trailing
horses and flew higher above the round as the horses were herded
into the trap. Effectiveness of the herding drives was similar at
all the observed gathers.
"Close proximity of the helicopter skids, rotors, body or tail
to the horses and/or ground poses a safety risk for the horses.
Conservative flying patterns that allow a reasonable buffer
distance between the helicopter and the horses, and the helicopter
and the ground are recommended at all times."
In a statement, the BLM said "The Bureau of Land Management
appreciates the thorough, objective report prepared by the American
Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), which was asked by the
BLM to review the agency’s care and handling of wild horses
and burros at gathers, short-term holding corrals, and long-term
holding pastures. The BLM will review the recommendations of
the AAEP and will continue its ongoing efforts to maintain and
improve the health and welfare of wild horses and burros."