A pair of helicopters drove 117 adult wild horses and 27 foals into the trap on Tuesday at the Adobe Town Herd Management Area in Wyoming.
Their capture will bring the total removed from the Salt Wells Creek / Great Divide Basin / Adobe Town heard management areas in southwest Wyoming’s Checkerboard region to 1,331 wild horses — including 269 foals and weanlings. On Monday, snow grounded the operation.
The American Wild Horse Campaign and wildlife photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl on Tuesday filed for a preliminary injunction in U.S. District Court, accusing the Bureau of Land Management of violating federal laws by excluding foals from the total count and by shipping captured wild horses to privately held corrals, out of the public eye.
The agency has agreed to halt the roundup when it reaches 1,560 total wild horses — its originally stated goal — until the court has ruled, AWHC announced today.
BLM originally set out to capture 1,560 wild horses from the three herd management areas. After Return to Freedom and other organizations raised questions about not counting young horses, BLM began announcing totals for both adult wild horses and foals captured.
The agency set out to capture:
- 513 of the 1,123 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.
Twelve horses have died during the roundup, each euthanized for what BLM says was a preexisting condition with “a hopeless prognosis for recovery.”
About half of the captured wild horses (mares, foals and weanlings) are to be shipped to the Rock Springs, Wyo., Wild Horse Holding Facility. More recently, BLM said that those wild horses would then be moved to the Bruneau Off-Range Corrals, located southeast of Boise, Idaho.
The remainder (studs and some yearlings) will be 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.
Both the corrals in Bruneau and Axtel are privately owned facilities, closed to the public.
About half of the captured wild horses (mares, foals and weanlings) are to initially 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 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.
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.
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