The Bureau of Land Management captured nine horses on Saturday, the 11th and final day of an “emergency” helicopter roundup on the Conger Herd Management Area in southwestern Utah. No deaths were reported on Saturday.
A total of 204 wild horses were captured. One wild horse with an unspecified pre-existing condition and a body condition score of two (very thin) on nine-point scale was euthanized on Aug. 15. It was the only reported death of the roundup.
BLM set out to remove 296 wild horses from their home range.
The BLM made no plans to treat and release additional mares with safe, proven and humane fertility control, which Return to Freedom strongly supports as a way to eliminate future roundups.
The roundup was a follow-up to a five-year population control study completed last year.
“The current gather has been elevated as necessary to address exceptional drought conditions in the Herd Management Area,” the BLM said in a press release. “Drought conditions have caused a decline in the health of the wild horses during the last year because of lack of food and water. The gather will help the long-term sustainable health for the horses and the other resources within the area.”
Mares fitted with GPS collars that could not be remotely released at the conclusion of a research study were to be captured to remove the collars, BLM said. In addition, “select wild horses may be returned to the HMA to maintain herd genetic diversity and characteristics and to meet herd management objectives.” BLM’s gather report made no mention of wild horses being returned to the range.
The agency-set “Appropriate Management Level” for the 170,993-acre Conger Herd Management Area is 40 to 80 wild horses, or as low as one horse for every 4,275 acres. The current population of wild horses is estimated to be 340 to 355 wild horses, including this year’s foals.
By comparison, private livestock grazing on seven allotments overlapping the Herd Management Area is allocated up to 16,880 Animal Unit Months or the annual equivalent of 1,407 cow-calf pairs. One AUM is enough forage for one cow-calf pair, one horse or five sheep per month.
Captured wild horses were to be shipped to the Axtell (Utah) Facility, a private facility that does not allow in-person public adoptions. The BLM will announce when the Conger wild horses will be available for adoption or sale at a future date, according to the press release.
RTF believes that the wild horses and burros have been placed in this position by the BLM’s failure to implement solutions that have been available for more than 20 years. The agency has resisted creating an infrastructure and a culture that could have made a sustainable and effective fertility control program possible. It has rounded up horses year after year while waiting for longer-acting vaccines instead of using the safe, proven and humane fertility control that’s available right now. These sensitive habitats are vulnerable to drought and, knowing this, a national land management agency tasked with the preservation and protection of our wild horses should have been prepared long ago and in a much better position today.