A federal agency has given a deadline to explain why the deadly wild horse ramming tour continues in Nevada.

A federal agency has given a deadline to explain why the deadly wild horse ramming tour continues in Nevada.

RENO, Nevada (AP) — A judge has asked federal land managers to explain why they are allowed to continue capturing more than 2,500 wild horses in northeastern Nevada that opponents say is illegal and has left 31 Mustangs dead in 26 days.

Wild Horse Education, a nonprofit organization seeking to protect horses, has sued the Bureau of Land Management and is seeking a court order to temporarily halt the tour midway between Reno and Salt Lake City.

Among other things, the agency says the agency is violating its own safety standards that prohibit arrests in extreme heat and the use of helicopters to assist in the capture of animals when foals are present.

More than 260 foals are among the 2,643 animals collected for transfer to government pens since July 9, the agency said on its website on Saturday. Hundreds more are expected to be gathered before the tour ends on August 22.

Democratic US Representative Dina Titus, of Nevada, has introduced a bill that would ban the use of helicopters under any circumstances to assist horseback riders in stalking mare in traps – temporary reefs in the high desert range.

She urged the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee this week to expedite a hearing on her motion because of the deaths of horses, including one with a broken leg who was chased for 35 minutes before being euthanized.

“Despite BLM directives to ‘humanely capture wild and free-breeding horses’ … the use of helicopters routinely creates frightening and lethal situations for horses as has been shown in recent weeks,” said Titus.

And she wrote in a letter to the chair of the committee, Republican US Rep. Bruce Westermann, D-Arkansas, and arrange US Rep. Raul Grijalva D-Arizona.

“Without meaningful reforms, BLM operations will continue to kill these symbols of the West in entirely avoidable circumstances,” she wrote.

So far, US District Judge Larry Hicks in Reno has refused to grant an August 1 application for a temporary restraining order to stop arrest in Nevada. But on Friday, he told the agency it had until 4 p.m. Monday to formally respond to allegations of illegal animal abuse.

He set a hearing for Wednesday to hear more detailed arguments, if necessary, from lawyers on both sides.

Nevada is home to nearly two-thirds of the 68,928 wild horses that the bureau estimated on March 1 were roaming federal lands in 10 western states stretching from California to Montana.

The bureau said in a court filing Wednesday that its latest report, which began July 9 between Elko and Eli near the Utah border, is “critical gathering” because the densely populated herds are causing severe damage to the range.

She said the estimated 6,852 horses there are nearly 14 times as much as Earth could ecologically conserve. She says the fatality rate is usually less than 1%.

Critics say the real purpose of the removals is to appease ranchers who don’t want horses competing with their livestock for valuable fodder in the high desert, where annual rainfall averages less than 10 inches (25 cm).

Wild Horse Education’s motion for a temporary restraining order says there is no legitimate reason for the current round to be held in extreme heat using helicopters when foals are present, “particularly when the BLM has plenty of time to conduct this rally as humane as the law requires.”

“Without a warrant, plaintiffs will continue to be permanently and irrevocably harmed by the egregious and horrific scenes of wild horses and death of burrows due to inhumane treatment, extreme heat and helicopter use during foaling season.”

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