Foals are captured then trailered off and put into pens with other orphan foals. All photos by Steve Paige.


The Bureau of Land Management on Wednesday captured and removed 32 mares and 19 studs from private land.

That brings to 161 the number of adult wild horses captured through three days as part of the the Salt Wells Creek / Great Divide Basin / Adobe Town heard management areas roundup in southwest Wyoming’s Checkerboard region. Four wild horses have been euthanized.

Also captured on Wednesday: 20 foals and weanlings.

In an unusual move, BLM is not counting horses that it removed under 1 year old toward its goal of taking 1,560 wild horses from their home ranges on the Salt Wells, Adobe Town and Great Divide Basin Herd Management Areas.

Though not typical of recent BLM roundups, the target of 1,560 “adult” horses is mentioned in the agency’s Environmental Assessment.

On Wednesday, having received requests for more information from RTF and others, the agency acknowledged that during the first two days of helicopter drive trapping, contractors also captured 22 foals and weanlings–bringing that separate total to 44 through three days.

Three wild horses, each “with a hopeless prognosis for improvement,” were euthanized on Wednesday, according to BLM:

  • a five month old palomino colt with a severe angular deformed right knee,
  • a three year old palomino mare with a severe spinal deformity,
  • and a six year old palomino mare with severe arthritis in the left front knee.

At roundup’s end, 21 mares are to be released after being collared as part of a movement study. The other captured wild horses will be transported to the Rock Springs Wild Horse Holding Facility. They will be offered for adoption. Those that are not adopted will be moved to long-term pastures, according to BLM.

The agency plans to capture:

  • 513 of the 1,123 adult wild horses present in the Adobe Town HMA, which has a BLM-assigned “Appropriate Management Level” of  610-800 wild horses;
  • 322 of the 737 in the Great Divide Basin HMA, which has an AML of 415-600;
  • and 725 of the 976 in the Salt Wells Creek HMA, which has an AML of 251-365.

The HMAs are part of Wyoming’s Checkerboard: an unfenced region alternating blocks of public and private or state land. The roundup is set to take place over a combined 1.7 million acres of public land and 731,703 acres of private land.

BLM allows private cattle, sheep and horse grazing on the three Wyoming HMAs equal to 149,962 Animal Unit Months. An AUM is defined as the use of public land by one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month. According to BLM, livestock use has been at 39% of permitted levels between 2008-16, with voluntary reductions, in part because of drought.

BLM conducted a 2014 roundup in the region after reaching an agreement with a ranching association to remove wild horses from the entire Checkerboard. That followed a 2013 lawsuit filed by the Rock Springs Grazing Association demanding that BLM remove wild horses from private ranch land there.

Last October, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that BLM violated both the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act and Federal Land Policy Management Act in conducting that 2014 roundup. The court found that the agency illegally treated public lands as private in its plans.

Return to Freedom joined fellow wild horse advocacy organizations and advocates as a co-plaintiff in the case. The appeals court’s ruling resulted in the cancellation of a planned fall 2016 roundup in the Checkerboard, also based on the agreement with the grazing association.

Now, BLM is justifying its plans to maintain the HMAs at its minimum population targets based in part on the court’s ruling.

To read BLM’s planning documents, click here.


Those who wish to view the roundup should contact Tony Brown at (307) 352-0215 or Participants must provide their own transportation, water and food. No bathrooms on-site bathrooms will be available. The BLM recommends driving four-wheel drive, high-clearance vehicles.

More photos from Sept. 27:


Foals, like the one trailing behind its fleeing family here, are not being counted against BLM’s goal of 1,560 wild horses captured.


Above and below: Wild horses being pushed into the trap alongside a fence line.




A beautiful lone pinto was captured after he was singularly chased down.


Three very young foals got to be paired up to their mares in temp holding.


A previously collard mare was among those captured. The collared mares will be released at some point, as a movement study being conducted by BLM and the University of Wyoming continues.


Salt Wells Creek, Day Two: 61 Wyoming wild horses captured; one euthanized, Sept. 27, 2017

Salt Wells Creek, Day One: 49 Wyoming wild horses captured, Sept. 26, 2017

1,560-horse roundup to start as Congress mulls letting BLM kill wild horses, Sept. 22, 2017

Deadline nears for comments on plan to capture 1,560 Wyo. wild horses, Aug. 5, 2017

‘No ambiguity’: Court tells BLM it cannot treat public land as private, Oct. 27, 2016

Press release: Landmark ruling stops BLM Wyo. wild horse wipeout, Oct. 14, 2016


Please donate to the Wild Horse Defense Fund to support RTF’s advocacy efforts, as well as selective litigation and coverage of roundups by humane witnesses