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BLM Calls Gathering Of Wyoming Wild Horses An “Overwhelming Success”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The wild horse round-up that took place near Rock Springs over the last few months concluded this week, and a U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokesman called the gather an “overwhelming success.”

The BLM Rock Springs and Rawlins field offices have been 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 since early October.

The gathering portion of the round-up concluded on Wednesday, with the bureau collecting 4,161 horses in total, including 1,603 stallions, 1,700 mares and 858 foals.

“We still do have some work to do with the round-up, such as cleaning up traps and treating about 80 mares with fertility control and then releasing them again,” BLM spokesman Brad Purdy told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “I think for our number of horses gathered, the lack of injuries and the low number of deaths, I think for BLM, this is an overwhelming success.”

The intent at the beginning of the round-up was to remove 3,500 horses in order to keep the wild horse populations within appropriate management levels, around 1,550 to 2,145 horses. The BLM in Wyoming manages 16 wild horse herd areas on nearly 5 million acres.

Although nearly 4,200 horses have been gathered, around 800 of them will ultimately be returned to the management areas. So far, around 250 horses have been treated with fertility control.

Managing wild horses at appropriate levels allows the bureau to maintain rangeland and wild horse herd health and reduce the instances of horses moving onto private land and highways.

Thirty-seven horses died during the round-up, 10 related to the gathering and 27 caused by pre-existing conditions such as a club foot.

“That number 10 really jumped out at me, because I think that shows we are really focused on safety,” Purdy said. “BLM averages about half a percent of deaths when it comes to these round-ups, and I would imagine our numbers are way below that.”

Thirty-seven deaths out of the 4,161 animals rounded up would amount to 0.9%.

However, the American Wild Horse Campaign did not have kind words to say about the end of the round-up.

“The BLM’s reckless assault on Wyoming’s wild horses was unnecessary, inhumane and a colossal waste of our tax dollars,” Suzane Roy, AWHC executive director, said. “It’s left the magnificent Red Desert landscape devoid of these majestic, federally-protected animals and feedlot pens crammed full of these formerly free-roaming animals. This is no way to manage America’s cherished wild mustangs, and it’s long past time for the BLM to stop the roundups and implement humane, scientific management with fertility control.” 

Purdy said in previous interviews that the goal for the BLM is to have no animal deaths, but he also has said this is not realistic when dealing with wild animals.

He also pointed out that there were no injuries among the humans working to gather the animals, another sign that BLM puts an emphasis on safety and well-being.

Now that horses have been removed, many of them will be trained at various sites across Wyoming, including the Honor Farm, and then put up for adoption, which Purdy encouraged more people to consider.

“They’re hardy animals,” he said. “I’ve seen them do everything from competition riding to being a working horse for a rancher. If you have room in your heart and on your land, you should look into adopting one of these horses.”

Editor’s note: The original version of the story had the wrong math percentages. We have updated the story to reflect the correct numbers.

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Horse Breaks Back, Dies During Wyoming Wild Horse Roundup

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Four horses died Thursday during the Bureau of Land Management’s wild horse roundup near Rock Springs, according to the bureau’s latest data.

One horse broke its back and died while being chased by the bureau’s helicopters, while three others died due to pre-existing conditions, such as a club foot and a broken leg.

According to the BLM, 119 horses, including 50 mares, 44 stallions and 25 foals, were gathered on Thursday, bringing the total number of horses rounded up since October to 3,240, including 1,272 stallions, 1,308 mares and 660 foals. Nearly 500 of the horses have been returned to their home range.

As of Thursday, 20 horses have died during the roundup since it began in October. Nine of the deaths were related to a situation caused by the roundup, such as two mares that broke tehir necks in late November, and 11 resulted from pre-existing conditions.

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.

The roundup resumed Thursday after a month-long pause. It began in October and is slated to last until February.

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

BLM officials have previously noted that injuries to wild horses and burros during a roundup are rare.

BLM spokesman Brad Purdy told Cowboy State Daily in November 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.

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.”

Last month, the American Wild Horse Campaign filed a petition signed by more than 70,000 people to stop the roundup.

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More Than 70K Petition To Stop Wild Horse Roundup In Wyoming

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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.”

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Wild Mares Break Necks During Wyoming Horse Roundup

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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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Wyoming Photographer Documents Lives & Drama Of Wild Mustangs

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

There’s a lot of drama among the wild horses on McCullough Peak and one Powell photographer has made it his passion to bring it to light through his photos and stories.

Recent activity seemed to focus on stallions proving themselves among the various bands, which professional photographer Tony Douzenis documented in several installments on his own Facebook page and the group Wyoming Through the Lens, accompanied by his stories of the animals. 

In the most recent post Sunday morning, Douzenis’ photos depicted Winchester, a chestnut stallion, waking up to start a scuffle with Osage, another dark bay stallion and head of a neighboring band or family. Typically, Osage delegates his lieutenant, Sundance, to handle his confrontations, which that morning led to a boxing match between Sundance and Winchester.

Based on Douzenis’ photographs, ‘boxing’ seems to be exactly what the two are doing, reared up on their stocky, muscular hind legs with front hooves extended, trading kicks. 

Douzenis isn’t sure what caused the scuffle, but he noted in prior postings conflict has been brewing between the various bands all week. 

Luckily, they all seemed to walk away unscathed from these skirmishes, Douzenis wrote, “once again leaving me in peace with my lovely horse families.”

Until the next time. 

Aren’t Always Fighting

When the stallions aren’t proving themselves in efforts to protect their families, there are also plenty of tender moments between brothers, colts and uncles and mares. Even the stallions show their softer sides in the extended chronicles that the Powell photographer has written for nearly a year. 

Douzenis estimates there are 170 wild horses roaming the 109,814 acres of the McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Management Area roughly 18 miles east of Cody. The herds of pintos, palominos, cremellos, buckskins, greys, bays and chestnuts that populate the landscape overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in keeping with the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act passed by Congress in 1971. Throughout October, the BLM is also adopting out a number of these wild horses. 

Few public land management issues are as contentious as wild horses with clear divides between those who see the majestic animals as representative of the Wild West and livestock producers and others who consider them an expensive nuisance.

Douzenis falls squarely in the camp of those who appreciate the beauty of the wild creatures and donates a portion of the proceeds from his photo print sales to the nonprofit Friends of a Legacy (FOAL), formed by a handful of locals in 2005. FOAL’s mission is to protect the wild herds through a variety of initiatives such as preserving reservoirs and other water sources in the high desert prairie as well as other initiatives like darting mares for fertility control to lower birth rates to retain productive rangelands. 

FOAL has also taken it upon itself to name and catalogue the wild McCullough horses.

Douzenis has named a couple of the colts himself in all of his time spent watching the horses. 

He can’t help himself at this point, he admitted. He’s pretty hooked on the animals, which to him have come to take on their own distinct personalities and stories. 

“Each horse has its own personality,” he said. “They have their own world and rules. It’s quite remarkable to witness.”

Where It Came From

It’s hard to explain to people when they ask him about the genesis of some of his posts, he said. He’s so tuned into their world and rules that the stories just start to flow out of his imagination as he’s watching them, as he’s done for months. At this point, the wild horses seem to have adopted him as much as he’s become attached to them, often letting him get close with his camera and looking straight at him as he shoots.

He’s always loved wild horses, he said, and there’s something about the mystique and their way of life that he just finds beautiful and endlessly interesting.

For the past year, his outdoor photography has focused almost solely on the horses after he got hooked pretty much the first time he drove out there, a roughly 30-minute drive from his house.

“I was in awe watching them,” he said, rattling off memories of the first time he saw Tecumseh and Washakie, two of the horses who factor prominently in his stories which he is now turning into a book. “Just their raw power and untouched beauty and the way they communicate with another. I felt drawn to them and wanted to meet and follow them.”

Once he started watching them, he came to know them and gain a better insight into what their various interactions and communications mean. It became more than just photographs at that point, he said, and his curiosity grew.  

There are over a dozen different bands of horses out there, including a couple groups of bachelors who have been driven off from their families to start their own band. Some of the groups have between 50 to 70 horses, primarily consisting of a dominant stallion and his lieutenant as well as his mare and other family and offspring. 

The different groups tend to stick around the same area but keep their distance from each other, he said. He rattled off various names of horses – Splaash, Traveler, Muskagee – and described how the bands fit together. 

He goes out to McCullough Peaks three to four times a week and puts in a lot of miles with every trip as he checks in with the various herds. 

Don’t Invade Their Space

Douzenis has learned a lot from watching them, he said, particularly the interactions between the band stallions and their lieutenants and the myriad of ways they’re able to communicate their orders, as well as the rambunctious and sometimes random fights between the bachelors vying for turf or females.

Sometimes it’s just a spar with minor cuts and bruises, he noted, and he’s never seen two horses fight to the death, though he always keeps an eye on them to make sure they’re walking away intact. 

He lets them dictate how close they want him to be, and sometimes, it’s as close as 300 feet. Once, a group of bachelors greeting him at his truck as he waited for them to walk by.

“You don’t want to invade their space,” he said. “If they want me there, they show it. You can sense if they want you there or not.”

Most of the bands seem comfortable with him, but if they start to tense up in a huddle, he takes it as his cue to get lost. 

Apart from opening his imagination, they’ve taught him a lot, too. He’s got a whole new sense of the importance of peace and the ability to be present in the quiet beauty of nature and its rhythms. 

“They have their own world and life, and it’s so peaceful being out there,” he said.

It’s also taught him a lot about the nature of family and communication through their cordiality with each other and the ways in which they forgive and move on.

“You can still have arguments but be civil,” he said. “They have arguments like other families, but life goes on. They care and work together. That’s a big thing that I’ve learned. There is passion in this world and it still exists.”

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