Photo by Carol Walker

The Bureau of Land Management has reached a decision to capture and remove 2,096 wild horses, or about 80% of the population, from the Red Desert Complex of Herd Management Areas in Wyoming. The helicopter roundups could begin as soon as this fall.

The announcement of the Red Desert Complex decision comes as Congress considers allowing BLM to kill healthy unadopted wild horses. The agency has already announced plans for two other large helicopter roundups: 6,737 in Nevada and another 1,560 elsewhere in Wyoming.

BLM has yet to determine if it will attempt to round up the Red Desert wild horses at one time or in a series of smaller roundups, over a three-year period, reducing the population until it is at or near the lower end of agency’s “Appropriate Management Level,” or AML. Water and bait trapping may also be used to augment helicopter drive-trapping.

BLM says that the roundup is needed because of what it deems overpopulation of wild horses, deterioration of rangeland and requests to remove wild horses from private land. An estimated 578 wild horses live on private land, and all would be removed.

AML for the 753,000-acre complex is 480-724 wild horses.

For livestock in the complex, BLM has allotted 69,889 Animal Unit Months: the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow-calf combination or five sheep for a month. Actual use has varied from 10-70% of authorized use in recent years, depending on availability of forage and water, according to BLM.

A portion of the captured mares may be treated with fertility control vaccine and released. BLM plans to retain wild horses on the Lost Creek Herd Management Area with characteristics of New World Iberian horses, using photographs and DNA testing.

The Red Desert Complex is made up of the Lost Creek, Stewart Creek, Green Mountain, Crooks Mountain and Antelope Hills Herd Management Areas. Wild horses will be captured from in and around the five HMAs, which are located in Sweetwater, Carbon, Fremont and Natrona Counties.

To read BLM’s planning documents related to the planned Red Desert roundup, click here.