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Wild-Horse Roundup Halted After Protests

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From Times Wire Services

A wild-horse roundup staged by the state Department of Fish and Game in Siskiyou County has angered some area residents and prompted federal officials to call a halt to the capture effort.

“We would do it differently if we had to do it over again. We would seek direction from the feds,” Fish and Game spokesman Paul Wertz said last week.

The department could face fines up to $2,000 for each horse that was chased or corraled in the roundup at the Butte Valley Wildlife Area, under a federal statute that makes it illegal for anyone other than federal officials to try to capture wild horses.

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A mare and colt were the only animals actually caught.

The round-up began when Gordon Ashcraft, who manages the Meiss Lake wildlife area for the state, became concerned that the wild horses would gobble up the limited amount of food in the area, leaving thousands of deer to starve, Wertz said.

The agency had a long-range plan to build up deer food supplies by planting bitterbrush in the wildlife area just south of the California-Oregon border.

About a half dozen wild horses live in the area and other transient horses graze there, Wertz said, adding that a horse eats about as much as seven deer.

At first the department was going to start supplemental feeding by spreading hay and cutting down junipers, so the deer could reach the branches, but the early arrival of winter aggravated the situation. The deer “were showing signs of stress and the beginnings of malnutrition,” Wertz said.

Jack Darnall, spokesman for the Klamath National Forest, which has authority over the herd in Butte Valley, said they first learned of the roundup through ranchers who had witnessed the effort.

“The day after Christmas, one of the local residents came in madder than a wet hen,” Darnall said.

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