LAS VEGAS (AP) -- The federal capture of about 2,500 wild horses from public and private lands in northern Nevada was to begin Monday amid protests the roundups are unnecessary and inhumane.
Federal officials said the roundup is needed because the 850 square miles (2,200 square kilometers) of land is overpopulated.
Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman JoLynn Worley said the agency planned to begin gathering horses Monday and taking them to Reno, where they will be fed and given immunizations.
Long-term plans call for the mustangs to be placed for adoption or sent to holding facilities in the Midwest.
Horse defenders say the use of helicopters to drive horses to corrals is inhumane and risks their injury and death. Opponents also contend winter roundups expose horses to the risk of respiratory illness.
About 30 protesters gathered Sunday at the entrance to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area west of Las Vegas, waving down motorists and holding placards.
California-based In Defense of Animals planned to demonstrate Wednesday outside the San Francisco office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who who protesters hope will sympathize with their calls for a moratorium on wild horse roundups.
Another protest was being planned for Wednesday in Chicago.
The roundup was to include horses from five federally managed areas in the Calico Mountains complex.
A September count showed more than 3,040 wild horses were living in the area, about three times the land's capacity, federal officials said.
Without the roundup, the horse population in the area would grow by 20 percent to 27 percent annually, passing 6,000 mustangs within four years, according to BLM. At that point, wildlife and livestock wouldn't have enough water or forage.
The roundup is part of the Bureau of Land Management's overall strategy to remove thousands of mustangs from public lands across the West to protect wild horse herds and the rangelands that support them. The bureau estimates about half of the nearly 37,000 wild mustangs live in Nevada, with others concentrated in Arizona, California, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.