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Federal judge to hear legal battle over Nevada mustang roundup where 31 wild horses have died

FILE - A livestock helicopter pilot rounds up wild horses from the Fox & Lake Herd Management Area on July 13, 2008, in Washoe County, Nev., near the town on Empire, Nev. A legal battle over the U.S. government's ongoing capture of thousands of wild horses in Nevada, where over two dozen mustangs have died in a weeks-long roundup goes before a judge Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023, as opponents try to prove it's illegal and should be stopped. (AP Photo/Brad Horn, File)

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A legal battle over the U.S. government’s deadly capture of thousands of wild horses in Nevada is getting a hard look from a federal judge in Reno. The ongoing roundup has left 31 mustangs dead.

Opponents say the roundup is illegal. They’re seeking a court order to stop it.

U.S. land managers said ahead of Wednesday’s hearing that the deaths among 2,500 horses gathered since July 9 are an “unfortunate-but-expected” part of necessary efforts to cull the size of over-populated herds. They say the free-roaming animals pose a threat to the ecological health of federal rangeland.

Horse advocates say the deaths are the unnecessary result of inhumane tactics prohibited under federal law.