Destruction of Largest Wyoming Wild Horse Herd Underway Despite Public Outcry

Wild horse mare dies in costly and unnecessary roundup


Rock Springs, WY (October 12, 2010)—Amid nationwide protests, today 122 more healthy wild horses were rounded up by helicopter in the Adobe Town/Salt Wells Wild Horse Herd Management Area Complex. The current three-day roundup total is 320, not including one mare who died on the run yesterday. The National Academy of Sciences will begin it’s Congressionally-requested investigation of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) wild horse and burro program in 2011 but it will too late for the Red Desert herds without an immediate moratorium on roundups.

This removal is estimated to cost at least $3.5 million in taxpayer dollars and will leave the celebrated Adobe Town/Salt Wells Wild Horse Range—already populated with oil and gas wells—nearly devoid of mustangs. Some 40,000 cattle per year are allocated to graze on the 1.5 million acres Complex as well, leaving little room for wild horses according to BLM’s multiple-use interpretation. The BLM plans to continue their operation for six weeks in order to roundup 1950 horses, removing 1580 of them permanently from the Complex. The majority of horses removed will be shipped to the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City which doubles as a holding facility for thousands of captured mustangs.

Carol Walker, author/photographer of Wild Hoofbeats: America’s Vanishing Wild Horses, has been documenting the mustangs of Wyoming’s Red Desert for seven years. “I am witnessing the end of the wild West here as family after family of wild horses are driven into the trap, the majority of which will never return. These are magnificent animals who deserve to live their lives in freedom with their families. They should not be stockpiled with the more than 40,000 wild horses and burros now in government holding.”

According to the National Wildlife Federation, Wyoming’s Red Desert is one of the last high-desert ecosystems in North America with varied landscapes, including the sagebrush steppe. In addition to pronghorn, mountain lion, desert elk, pygmy rabbits, greater sage grouse, black-footed ferrets and golden eagles, reside Wyoming’s last great herd of wild horses. These mustangs trace back to the horses of the Spanish conquest and before that to their almost genetically-identical ancestors who died out in North America some 7,000 years ago.

BLM expects to leave no more than 861 wild horses (3,000 acres per horse) on the range that will include 100 mares treated with an experimental two-year infertility drug, PZP-22. Going against their Environmental Assessment, BLM will manipulate the sex ratios to nearly 67% male: 33% female by releasing 274 stallions and only 100 mares. These numbers exceed the publicized 60% male to 40% female ratio.

“Skewing the sex ratio to this extent and returning 100 drugged mares who will cycle monthly is a recipe for social disaster” explains Cloud Foundation Director Ginger Kathrens, who has spent more than 16 years observing and documenting wild horse behavior across the West. “BLM is in the business of removal and destruction, not management.”

BLM has set up an observation site for the public and media on an oil and gas pad more than one mile from the partially visible trap site. The Foundation encourages members of the public to witness this roundups, updates on trap location and observing the roundup can be found on the BLM website.

Makendra Silverman, on site for The Cloud Foundation reports: “The noise of the chopper fills the air before you see a cloud of dust and running mustangs. I watched some of the last wild horses swept off our public lands with a backdrop of oil and gas wells—this absolutely must stop.”

Concurrently BLM contractors are rounding up wild horses in Colorado’s North Piceance Herd Area, despite a lawsuit filed by the Habitat for Horses Advisory Council, the ASPCA and The Cloud Foundation last week. Eyewitnesses today say a mare and her baby tried to escape but the mare was roped and dragged into a trailer. The condition of the mare has not yet been disclosed.

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Further Reading:

Adobe Town-Salt Wells Environmental Assessment

High Country News: The Red Desert- Wyoming’s endangered country

Wild Hoofbeats blog by Carol Walker (Adobe Town/Salt Wells Horses)

Lawsuit filed to save Colorado herd

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