The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will not say if they have euthanized any cows in the roundup of Cliven Bundy’s cattle on public land in Nevada.
Amy Lueders, the Nevada state director for the BLM, said in a conference call Thursday evening that the agency does have a "protocol," but would not release any numbers for animals they have found dead or that they have euthanized.
A reporter asked about heavy construction equipment that was seen coming in and out of the blockade, and whether cattle have been found dead, injured, or euthanized during the operation.
"In terms of the number that we’ve found, animals who are, I think, deceased on the range, or if we’ve had to euthanize an animal, we don’t have an answer to that question at this time," Lueders said. "We will euthanize an animal during the impoundment if they exhibit dangerous characteristics, threaten the health and safety of the employees, display a hopeless prognosis for life."
"So, we do have a protocol in terms of when we would euthanize animals," she said. "But we don’t have any answers at this time in terms of the numbers."
Lueders said she understood that the heavy equipment was being used to "restore land that has been affected by the trespass cattle."
The Bundy family has expressed concerns that the cattle are being mistreated. Stetsy Bundy Cox, Cliven Bundy’s daughter, told the Washington Free Beacon that she believes calves are being left behind.
"I watched them gather a herd off the river with helicopters, and they had rounded them for miles and by the time I saw them they were pushing them up the wash," she said. "Most of them were mamas with babies because it’s calving season, and they’re just little. And I watched the calves, they couldn’t keep up very good and they kept slowing down and the helicopter would swoop down and you could hear them honking at them. And he kept swooping down and honking at them."
Cox said that calves will hide under brush, and it is likely that employees removing the cattle would not see them.
"I also know my dad’s cows, because a few of those cows out there are my own personal cows," she said. "When you push them too hard, or if you rope them they sulk. They’re kind of stubborn. And if they don’t want to go they’ll sulk. And if they get down and sulk they’ll sulk so long they won’t even get up, they’ll just die. So if you stress those cows out too much, they’ll do that."
"Do I think they are leaving baby calves out there? I do," Cox said. "Do I think that cows are dying? I do."
The BLM refused to estimate how much it is costing to remove the cattle, though some estimates have risen to $3 million.
"Mr. Bundy currently owes the taxpayers over $1 million and if Mr. Bundy had chosen to comply with the law, and chosen to comply with two court orders, we would not be undertaking this operation," Lueders said. "The cost will be a matter of public record once the operation concludes, we are not providing estimates at this time, because there are certainly a number of factors, including the duration that will determine the ultimate cost."
As of Wednesday, 352 cattle have been removed from the public land ranched by the Bundy family for more than a century. An estimated 200 armed officials have surrounded the ranch, the culmination of a dispute dating back 20 years over "grazing fees" and the protection of the "desert tortoise."
The majority of public land in Clark County, Nev. was set aside for the tortoise in 1998. Only three grazing permits are currently held on public land in Southern Nevada, the BLM said on Thursday.
Gov. Brian Sandoval (R.) had expressed concern over the tactics used by the BLM, including the use of so-called "First Amendment Areas," designated locations set up by the BLM where citizens can protest the removal.
The BLM said on Thursday they are now "allowing the public to congregate on public lands," but safety remains their number one priority.
"We certainly have heard the Governor’s concerns, and we welcome his input," Lueders said. "Hearing his concerns, we have made some adjustments, and we are allowing [the] public to congregate on public lands, as long as they do not impede the operation."
"Earlier this week, I advised the BLM not to limit or hinder the constitutional rights of Nevadans and be mindful of its conduct," Sandoval said. "The ability to speak out against government actions is one of the freedoms we all cherish as Americans."
"Today I am asking all individuals who are near the situation to act with restraint. Although tensions remain high, escalation of current events could have negative, long lasting consequences that can be avoided," he said.
Reps. Matt Salmon (R., Ariz.) and Steve Pearce (R., N.M.) sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Friday expressing their concern about the "escalation of force" used by the federal government.
"This escalation of force reportedly includes the deployment of roughly two hundred heavily armed personnel, including snipers, along with the deployment of Tasers, the use of K-9 units, and brutal physical force against members of the Bundy family and their neighbors who had come to support them," Salmon and Pearce wrote.
"One of the victims of this aggression is reported to have included Margaret Houston, a 57-year-old mother of eleven children and a recovering cancer victim."
"Unfortunately, we know all too well that in situations like these, if tensions continue to escalate the consequences can be devastating," the lawmakers said. "We ask that the BLM allow ‘cooler heads to prevail' and to pursue a non-violent resolution to this disagreement."