Wild Mares Break Necks During Wyoming Horse Roundup

Two wild mustang mares died on Sunday after breaking their necks by crashing into panels while being chased by a helicopter.

Ellen Fike

December 01, 20214 min read

Wild horses
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Two wild mares died Sunday during the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s wild horse roundup in the Rock Springs area, wild horse advocates announced.

The American Wild Horse Campaign said that two wild mustang mares died on Sunday after breaking their necks by crashing into panels while being chased by a helicopter.

BLM spokesman Brad Purdy confirmed the incident to Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

“They ran into one of the pens, lowered their heads and kind of lunged forward and broke their necks,” Purdy said. “I spoke with a contracting officer who was down there and he said the deaths were almost instantaneous, so there was really no suffering there.”

Since the roundup began in October, there have been 12 horse fatalities, six of which were due to pre-existing reasons (such as an injury or a clubbed hoof) and six of which were the result of the roundup, including the deaths of the two mares.

Purdy noted that BLM officials had to kill a horse on Monday due to a pre-existing hind leg injury.

The BLM maintains a daily “gather” report that notes how many horses were gathered during a day, how many animals were shipped and how many deaths occurred.

BLM officials have previously noted that injuries to wild horses and burros during a roundup are rare, which Purdy pointed out.

“It mentions 1 out of 200 acute/sudden deaths or 0.5% is average,” Purdy said. “Currently on the Rock Springs gather we have 6 fatalities due to pre-existing and 6 acute/sudden. Just using the 6 acute/sudden number, we’re at 0.2%.”

Purdy said that while BLM’s intent is to keep any fatalities from happening, they do occur, albeit not often.

“It’s an unfortunate situation, but when you’re dealing with wild animals, it’s unrealistic to think no fatalities will happen,” he said.

As of Sunday, BLM officials have gathered 2,478 horses (1,044 stallions, 1,001 mares and 503 foals), with the goal of rounding up 3,500 by the end of the year, if not sooner.

The BLM in Wyoming manages 16 wild horse herd areas on nearly 5 million acres.

The BLM Wyoming Rock Springs and Rawlins field offices are removing wild horses from the Great Divide Basin, Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek, White Mountain and Little Colorado Herd Management Areas (HMAs) in southwestern Wyoming.

The American Wild Horse Campaign is threatening legal action against the BLM, as the organization is accusing BLM of unlawfully removing 59 more wild horses than authorized in its environmental assessment and decision record, it announced Monday.

AWHC is asking BLM to return that number of horses to the range to avoid legal action.

“This roundup is of great importance to the public, not only due to the sheer number of wild horses being removed but because of the continued scapegoating of this herd in favor of privately-owned livestock,” said Grace Kuhn, communications director for AWHC. “We want to send a clear message to the agency that we are watching closely and that every horse counts and matters.” 

Purdy encouraged anyone who has an interest in wild horses to consider adopting one (or more) once they have been rehabilitated at the Wyoming Honor Ranch in Riverton or the Mantle Training Facility in Wheatland.

“Once these animals are gentle, it’s incredible the things they can do,” he said. “That’s the best solution for both the horses and the taxpayer.”

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Ellen Fike