SALT LAKE CITY, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Bureau of Land Management says it is removing more than 300 wild horses from Utah range land for their safety, in a move opposed by animal groups.
Federal officials said they have recently completed two roundups in Utah and are poised to begin another, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Thursday.
Around 50,000 horses and burros are now in BLM's long-term holding facilities while another 35,000 remain on Western public lands.
Wild horse advocates claim the roundups, often conducted by helicopter, are not always necessary and traumatize the animals, while BLM officials say using helicopters is the best way to move horses toward holding pens.
"In my 20 years with the program I found it the best way to gather the horses," said Gus Warr, supervisor of the BLM's Utah wild horse and burro program. "As long as you have a good pilot, they don't have to be roped or choked down."
Animal activists said they disagree with that assessment.
"The BLM in 40 years has failed to create a humane, enforceable standard for wild horses and burros," Laura Leigh of Wild Horse Education said. "They need to be very clear in how their roundups and handling at their facilities are to be managed."
In the wake of allegations that a big purchaser of horses from the BLM may have shipped them illegally out of the United States for slaughter, the bureau has imposed strict limits on the sale of captive wild horses.
Under the new BLM policy no more than four wild horses or burros may be bought by any individual or group within a six-month period, and buyers must state where the animals will be kept.