Wild Horses Rounded Up in American West

"They should be 100 pounds, maybe 200 pounds heavier than what they are," said Alan Shepherd of BLM, pointing to the horses in the pen. "Going into the winter, we don't want horses in this condition. We want to get the horses before they really start declining."

After a roundup, the animals were loaded onto trucks and driven out to Fallon, Nev. to be put in a short-term holding area with the rest of the horses. On a successful day, the BLM rounds up about 50-100 horses.

After several hours of waiting, with only a couple of hours of sunlight left, the recon helicopter spotted a band. Visitors who came to watch the roundups quickly drove over to the "trap" area to sit on the side of a dusty hill and wait.

After about 45 minutes, a helicopter appeared in the distance. It got louder and louder as its rotors appeared over the edge of the hill.

The helicopter popped out from behind the slope, large, loud and close. In front of the chopper, a long band of horses galloped toward the enclosure. Despite their speed, the mustangs seemed almost quiet and slow compared to the loud buzzing of the helicopter that hovered above them.

Helicopters Round Up Horses

The horses ran in a straight, long line until they were caught.

The scene was dramatic as the cowboys on either side of the traps corralled the horses and directed them over to the loading truck. The horses whinnied and jumped on top of each other and banged against the fences.

For these mustangs, their time in the wild has come to an end.

The activists had horrified looks on their faces. One of them wanted to go down to the trap and monitor the horses' breathing, but the BLM representative didn't let her.

There were another two roundups, and each time the helicopter flew low over a long line of running horses and directed them from the distant hills into the traps. The plan was to continue the process until a total of 3,000 horses were rounded up from the area.

The government insists wild horses won't ever disappear entirely because they reproduce quickly and often. The activists say all this is going to lead wild horses to extinction.

The sun was setting as Pickens jumped back into her helicopter to survey the golden, brush-covered hills below that were hiding small bands of the remaining free, wild horses -- and the land she hopes one day to put them on.

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