By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A petition signed by more than 70,000 people calling for an end to the federal roundup of wild horses on public land in Wyoming was delivered to federal officials this week.
The horse roundup run by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which began in October, has concluded for the year, but will resume again in the new year and is slated to last until February.
The operation is being opposed by The Animal Welfare Institute and American Wild Horse Campaign, which delivered the petition to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Monday.
“The current assault on Wyoming’s wild horses is emblematic of our government’s 50-year failure to live up to its legal obligation to protect these animals,” said Holly Gann Bice, director of government relations for the American Wild Horse Campaign. “The BLM is pursuing a mass roundup plan that will cost taxpayers $5 billion, slash wild herds to near extinction levels, and could result in the mass slaughter of these cherished animals. Today we are calling on Secretary Haaland to stop the roundups and start protecting wild horses and burros by humanely managing them in the wild using fertility control. Fifty years is long enough. The time for change is now.”
“It speaks volumes about our government’s flawed strategy and misguided priorities that the largest removal of wild horses in US history coincides with the golden anniversary of the very law meant to preserve their freedom,” said Dr. Joanna Grossman, equine program manager and senior advisor at the Animal Welfare Institute. “Contrary to the law’s mandate, America’s wild horses have faced tremendous pressure for decades from the government, ranchers, the livestock industry, state wildlife agencies, and others who do not support the protection of these iconic animals on Western rangelands.”
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 roundup concluded for the year earlier this month after collecting more than 3,100 horses — 1,398 stallions, 1,258 mares and 635 foals, according to the BLM.
A total of 16 horses have been killed during the roundup. Eight of the deaths resulted from the roundup and the other eight deaths were the result of pre-existing conditions. Two of the deaths occurred when two mares being chased by a helicopter crashed into panels in a holding pen.
BLM officials have previously noted that injuries to wild horses and burros during a roundup are rare.
“It mentions 1 out of 200 acute/sudden deaths or 0.5% is average,” BLM spokesman Brad Purdy told Cowboy State Daily at the time. “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.
Purdy also 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.”