A wild horse attempts to get through a barbed wire fence on Saturday. All photos by Steve Paige.


Wild horses tangled with a barbed wire fence on Saturday while fleeing from a Bureau of Land Management contractor’s helicopter at the Great Divide Basin Herd Management Area in Wyoming.

Seventy-six adults wild horses and 19 foals and weanlings were captured. That brought the total captured over six days as part of the the Salt Wells Creek / Great Divide Basin / Adobe Town heard management areas roundup in southwest Wyoming’s Checkerboard region to 302 adults and 84 foals and weanlings.

Three horses were euthanized on Saturday due to preexisting injuries “with a hopeless prognosis for recovery,” according to BLM:

  • a sorel stud with an enlarged right front carpus with severe ligament and tendon damage,
  • a 9-year-old bay mare with spinal deformity,
  • and a 13-year old-grey mare with a previously injured fetlock with severe hoof deformity.

Theirs bring the reported number of deaths since the start of the roundup to seven.

Also on Saturday: One in a family band of black wild horses racing away from the trap site leaped a barbed wire fence and a second broke through the top wire before escaping. The contractor’s then helicopter appeared, horses scattering in all directions.

Another group of wild horses tried the fence. A black horse in the lead got tangled in the barbed wire. The group then turned away from the fence when the helicopter backed off.

BLM then told the only two public observers — RTF humane observer Steve Paige and fellow photographer Carol Walker — to move back from the spot about 1.25 miles away from the trap where they had been allowed to shoot to another spot much further away.

It was the second time since the roundup began that a trap site was set up not far from a barbed wire fence that has not been flagged in any way to discourage wild horses from going near it.

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. In an unusual move, BLM is not counting wild horses under age 1 that it is capturing against its goal of capturing 1,560 wild horses.

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, including 84 that were shipped on Saturday. They will be offered for adoption, and 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. 30:










Salt Wells Creek, Day Five: Stallion tries to rescue captured family band, Sept. 30, 2017

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