Report by Maureen Lynch Vanderstad
Photography by Arla M. Ruggles
The photograph below shows the seconds before the photo above. You can see the jute trap wings crossing the road behind the helicopter in the photo below. It is evident why the horses are dripping in sweat and notice the small foal to the right in the photo above. As viewing was so limited at the trap, I do not know if all 5 horses shown in the segments of the highlighted sequence were captured. I think possibly one may have gotten away.
The contractor’s pilot follows his usual pattern which still remains unchecked by the BLM or law enforcement. The pattern consists of breaking apart bands of wild horses and then targeting specific horses. The assault shown here is only a segment that began at 7:12 am when he began to harass a group of 8 wild horses. The wild horses were captured at 7:29 am
He continuously challenges some of the horses and cuts them apart from the rest. He repeatedly dives down at the horses and flies dangerously close. Often it appears he is losing control of the aircraft as it dips and sways, unsteady in the currents he creates by his actions.
The wild horses change direction to find safety and it appears to me that it angers him and he continues the pattern of abuse even more aggressively.
This seems more to me like he is hunting horses, not herding them.
In the photograph below there is a foal behind the light colored horse underneath the skids
The pattern of chasing the wild horses back and forth, splitting and targeting horses including singling out the foal continues. These stills are only part of the sequence. Another man is in the cockpit with the pilot and I believe it to be John “Jake” Holmes, the owner of Sun J, the helicopter contractor and who is, the pilot Josh Hellyer’s boss. A complaint was filed with the White Pine County Sheriff’s Office.
In this specific sequence this goes on for 25 minutes and is not an isolated instance but has been the documented “norm” throughout the roundup.
At the trap wings, which is the entrance to the trap, the pilot makes a severely aggressive push to the lead horse which is really what I would call an attack. This is just out of view of observers who are now contained in the horse trailer on the ground level of the hillside.
The aggression escalates. My opinion is he knows the public has been contained in a horse trailer surrounded by juniper trees and they have minimal viewing. **At the time the public observers were restricted to the horse trailer, our range photographers documented the pilot was running wild horses up and down the hillside behind them. Photographs were taken from the observation area as well showing the helicopter flying low on the top of the hill and behind it.
The wild horse and burro specialists, Ben Noyes and Ruth Thompson are in constant radio contact with the pilot and ground crew as is the Public Relations person Chris Hanefeld. If they did not know this was happening then they certainly should have known. It is the responsibility of Ben Noyes and Ruth Thompson to ensure the safety and humane treatment of the wild horses at the roundup.
This is a preliminary Part 1 of only 1 round up day. Please don’t wait to contact your congressional representatives. Ask their help today. We will be including other contact information and way that you can take grass roots action !
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