The Bureau of Land Management this week announced it had approved a plan to remove wild horses from the Sulphur Herd Management Area in western Utah and use fertility control to maintain reduced herd numbers there.
The 265,675-acre Sulphur HMA, sometimes called the Sulphur Springs Herd Management Area, is located in Iron, Beaver and Millard counties, about 50 miles west of Minersville, Utah, in the Mountain Home and Indian Peak mountain ranges.
The BLM estimates the current population of wild horses there at 497. The agency-set “Appropriate Management Level (AML)” is 165 to 250 wild horses, or as low as one horse for every 1,610 acres.
By comparison, BLM allows up to 26,365 Animal Unit Months of seasonal cattle and sheep grazing in or around the Herd Management Area, the annual equivalent of 2,197 cow-calf pairs (an AUM is defined as the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month).
BLM’s tentative gather schedule calls for a February helicopter roundup on the Sulphur HMA with 326 wild horses to be removed and 50 treated with fertility control.
In its planning documents, BLM says it will “remove excess wild horses within and around the HMA to low AML as expeditiously as feasible through one or more gathers,” then manage population growth with PZP-22 fertility control.
The agency says that it may not be able to reach the low end of its Appropriate Management Level right away because of a lack of off-range holding space. In the past, BLM notes, “only” 60-70 percent of the herd had been captured in a given roundup because of tree cover, vast area and terrain.
RTF strongly supports safe, proven and humane fertility control as a tool to halt future roundups. We continue to urge a slower approach of scaling up fertility control as any lesser removals are accomplished methodically with bait and water trapping techniques, instead of helicopter roundups.
The Sulphur HMA wild horses are among the few herds with Colonial Spanish origins, based on phenotype and blood-typing. Many have distinctive dorsal and leg striping. RTF’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary is home to two family bands of Sulphur Springs horses.