Update: Helicopter drive trapping planned for Tuesday, Oct. 3, has been postponed because of fog and muddy conditions.
The Bureau of Land Management has captured 461 adult wild horses and 121 foals as part of its ongoing helicopter roundup at the Salt Wells Creek / Great Divide Basin / Adobe Town heard management areas roundup in southwest Wyoming’s Checkerboard region.
That includes 125 adults and 26 foals captured on Monday and 34 adults and 11 foals captured on Sunday, according to the agency. No injuries or deaths were reported either day. In all, seven wild horses have been euthanized since the roundup began, all for what BLM described as chronic or pre-existing injuries with no chance of recovery.
According to RTF humane witness Steve Paige, the only member of the public on hand on Monday, when contractors used two helicopters, the large numbers of wild horses forced into the trap made it difficult to identify family bands, including mares and foals. What appeared from a distance to be dust rising off the wild horses was, in fact, steam from how hard the wild horses had been run. Several wild horses attempted to leap out of the trap pens, while stallions battled when confined together (see photos below).
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.
Having gone four wild horses beneath the BLM-designated “Appropriate Management Level” of 415 at Great Divide Basin after Monday, BLM planned to release four studs from the area before moving the trap site to the northeast corner of Adobe Town.
About half of the remaining captured wild horses are being shipped to the Rock Springs, Wyo., Wild Horse Holding Facility, with the remainder sent to the Axtel, Utah, Wild Horse Corrals, which earlier this year was the site of an outbreak of strangles. The captured horses are to 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 Oct. 2:
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