Wild horses stand in temporary holding pens on Thursday. All photos by Steve Paige.


With the only two members of the public present positioned about three miles from the trap site, the Bureau of Land Management on Thursday captured 178 wild horses at the Salt Wells Creek Herd Management Area.

They included 152 adult horses, bringing the total number of adults captured to 761 through nine days of helicopter drive trapping at  the Salt Wells Creek / Great Divide Basin / Adobe Town heard management areas roundup in southwest Wyoming’s Checkerboard region.

Also captured: 26 foals. So far, 181 foals and weanlings have been taken off the range. In an unusual move, BLM is not counting foals and weanlings ages 1-younger toward its total removal goal.

No injuries or deaths were reported on Thursday. Through Wednesday, nine wild horses had died during the roundup, each euthanized for what BLM says was a preexisting condition with “a hopeless prognosis for recovery.”

RTF humane witness Steve Paige said that though he was unable to see the trap site from his vantage point, BLM officials showed him photos of flags placed on a barbed wire fence to discourage wild horses from heading toward it. Twice earlier during the roundup, Paige photographed fences near trap sites without flags–including on Saturday, when wild horses fleeing a helicopter tangled with barbed wire.

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 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 Oct. 5:

Positioned about 3 miles from the trap site, two members of the public got a better look at antelope (above) than helicopter trapping (below).



All but unable to photograph the roundup, RTF humane witness Steve Paige was able to capture images of wild horses (above, below) at the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Loop on nearby White Mountain.




Salt Wells Creek, Day Nine: Total wild horses captured now 748, Oct. 5, 2017

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