Conservationists in Arizona are ramping up efforts to stop the federal government from rounding up herds of wild horses in a local forest — a move opponents say puts the animals’ lives in jeopardy.

The Forest Service has placed a Friday deadline on wild horses roaming in Tonto National Forest for those who wish to make a claim on individual animals. The remaining horses will be sent to auction, and those unable to be auctioned off will be “sold at private sale or condemned and destroyed, or otherwise disposed of,” according to the notice.

Carrie Templin, a public affairs officer with the Tonto National Forest told that the Forest Service estimates there are as many as 100 horses running free. However, she said that while the deadline ends Friday, there is no date set yet to round up the animals.

The Forest Service says the animals are a danger to public safety, but The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group — a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and monitoring the horses — contends there are other, less harmful ways to keep the wild horses from being a public safety risk. Conservationists fear that rounding up the animals could seriously injure them, while horses sent to auctions may be killed by so-called “kill buyers” who pick up the animals for the horse-meat trade.

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