One of two helicopters used by contractors on Sunday pushes small groups and family bands into a group of 66 wild horses headed toward the trap site. All photos by Steve Paige.


This post has been updated to include three deaths included in BLM’s daily gather report.

On Sunday, the Bureau of Land Management captured 66 wild horses, including 14 foals, at its ongoing helicopter roundup at the Salt Wells Creek / Great Divide Basin / Adobe Town heard management areas in southwest Wyoming’s Checkerboard region.

Three wild horses were euthanized: a sorrel colt with a club foot, a 12-year-old chestnut stud with a club foot and 20-year-old sorrel stud with laminitis. Theirs brought to 12 the total number of deaths — all of them euthanized for what BLM says were preexisting conditions with “a hopeless prognosis for recovery.”

In all, 1,193 wild horses have been captured since the roundup began. The Bureau of Land Management says it is not counting 242 captured foals and weanlings against its goal of removing 1,560 wild horses from in and around the three HMAs, however.

That unusual step has prompted the American Wild Horse Campaign and wildlife photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl to announce plans to file for a preliminary injunction.

As a result, according to RTF’s humane witness, Steve Paige, BLM officials said that they planned to release six of the wild horses captured at Salt Wells Creek HMA on Sunday because the combined number of adults and foals captured would exceed its goal for that herd management area.

The operation was set to move to the Adobe Town HMA on Monday.

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.

About half of the 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.

At roundup’s end, 21 mares are to be released after being collared as part of a movement study.

The three 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. 8:

A group of wild horses photographed moments before Sunday’s roundup began.



A surprising number of curly foals, like the one above, were among those captured on Sunday.

Above and below: These black-and-white foals looked so similar that it appeared they might be twins.



Above: This little black foal managed to keep up and was later paired up with its mother at temporary holding.




Salt Wells Creek, Day 12: 167 wild horses trapped, taken from range, Oct. 8, 2017

Salt Wells Creek, Day 11: Tally of wild horses captured now 960; suit filed over exclusion of foals from count, Oct. 7, 2017

Salt Wells Creek, Day 10: 152 adult wild horses, 26 foals captured, Oct. 6, 2017

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

Take action:

Sign our Wild on the Range petition supporting proven, humane management solutions for wild horses and burros


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