By the time RTF humane witness Steve Paige was allowed to view the temporary holding pens, most of the wild horses had already been sorted and shipped.


After a one-day delay due to fog and muddy conditions, Bureau of Land Management on Wednesday resumed its helicopter roundup at the Salt Wells Creek / Great Divide Basin / Adobe Town heard management areas roundup in southwest Wyoming’s Checkerboard region.

On Wednesday at Salt Wells Creek, 69 mares, 63 studs and 34 foals were captured, bringing the unofficial total captured to 593 adult wild horses and 155 foals. In an unusual move, BLM is not counting foals and weanlings ages 1-younger toward its total removal goal.

A palomino stud with a right hoof deformity and a sorel mare with chronic laminitis were euthanized on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, according to BLM. That brings the number of deaths — all from pre-existing conditions with a “hopeless prognosis for recovery” — to nine since the start of the roundup

No injuries or deaths were immediately reported on Wednesday. BLM’s page for the roundup was down as of this writing. This post will be updated when BLM’s daily gather report is available.

According to RTF’s humane witness, Steve Paige, the only member of the public on hand on Wednesday, trapping went “surprisingly smooth” despite windy conditions and the large number of wild horses driven to the trap by two helicopters — including about 70 in the first group brought in.

Observation began from a North Shore Exploration well that produced the smell of gas but turned out to have been capped. “What a relief since it was the only place with a view,” Paige wrote.

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.

About half of the remaining captured wild horses (mares, foals and weanlings) are to be shipped to the Rock Springs, Wyo., Wild Horse Holding Facility. The remainder (studs and some yearlings) will be sent to the Axtel, Utah, Wild Horse Corrals, a privately owned facility 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.

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 Oct. 4:

An antelope came by to check us out roundup observers standing near an oil well (below).





A stallion, right, tried lowering his head and snaking other wild horses, including a striking pinto stud, to safety.




A pair of helicopters pushed wild horses towards the trap.


A contractor on horseback pursues a young wild horse separated from its family band.


Salt Wells Creek, Days Seven & Eight: 461 wild horses, 121 foals captured total, Oct. 3, 2017

Salt Wells Creek, Day Six: Fleeing wild horses tangle with barbed wire, 95 captured, Oct. 1, 2017

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