A  stallion watches as a truck carrying his family band drives away on Friday. All photos by Steve Paige.


A stallion tried for hours to rescue his captured family band on Friday during the ongoing helicopter roundup at the Great Divide Basin Herd Management Area in Wyoming.

Thirty-two adult wild horses and 13 foals were trapped on the day, bringing to 278 adult wild horses and 65 foals the total that have been captured as part of the ongoing Salt Wells Creek / Great Divide Basin / Adobe Town heard management areas roundup in southwest Wyoming’s Checkerboard region. Four others had been euthanized through Thursday, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

The actions of one stallion on Friday that won’t soon be forgotten.

A contractor’s helicopter, with the pilot sometimes flying dangerously close, chased down a stallion and his family band (as shown in the photos below). The stallion escaped, galloping away, only to stop and watch as the helicopter pushed his band into the trap.

The stallion raced down the hill as if he might save his family. They called to each other as he circled and circled the trap site.

This continued — the band calling out and its stallion circling — even as contractors separated and sorted the captured wild horses, even as the horses were trailered, even as the trailered horses were carried to a waiting semi tractor-trailer with at least one horse bleeding from an injury. The stallion searched by the trucks as his family continued crying out to him.

Later, when the truck pulled away, he pursued it for a time before turning back to the trap site.

When a helicopter chased another group of wild horses into the trap, a mare escaped–breaking through the jute trap wings and leaving her foal behind. The lone stallion, who’d remained nearby, chased after her.

RTF humane witness Steve Paige thought that perhaps he’d seen the last of him.

“I felt better knowing he had found a new mate,” Paige wrote later. “However, as I was leaving at the end of the day, I saw him heading back towards the empty trap site in search of his family band.”

BLM plans to capture and remove 1,560 adult wild horses from their home ranges on the Salt Wells, Adobe Town and Great Divide Basin Herd Management Areas.

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.

RTF would like to thank Serena from the Wyoming BLM for arranging for Paige and three other members of the public to view Friday’s operation from Rock Springs Grazing Association property.


Those who wish to view the roundup should contact Tony Brown at (307) 352-0215 or agbrown@blm.gov. 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. 29:

















Salt Wells Creek, Day Four: 55 adult wild horses, 10 foals captured, Sept. 29, 2017

Salt Wells Creek, Day Three: 51 Wyoming wild horses captured; BLM not counting foals toward total, Sept. 28, 2017

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