Wild horses have been proving somewhat slow to take the bait when it comes to an effort near Craig to capture and remove some of them from the range while treating others with a vaccine that delays fertility.
The Bureau of Land Management reported earlier this week that 26 horses in the Sand Wash Basin have been gathered so far in a bait-trapping operation that started early this month.
Ten of them have been removed and will be placed into a nonprofit training and adoption program.
Twelve of the 26 were released back to the range after five of them received the fertility treatment, which is used on mares. Four of the 26 remained in holding as of Tuesday.
The BLM went into the operation hoping to gather about 200 horses altogether, removing up to 50 of them and treating another 75 to slow the herd’s growth.
This is the BLM’s first time trying to use bait to attract horses into temporary corrals in Sand Wash Basin — an approach generally more acceptable to wild-horse advocates than using helicopters to round up horses.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” BLM spokesman David Boyd said. “They haven’t come to the bait as readily as we would have hoped, so we’re still working on it and still learning what’s going to work best.”
He said he thinks weather will ultimately decide when the operation comes to an end, as it can hamper access to the area.
Certainly horses are coming in to the bait traps, Boyd said.
“But there’s 600 of them out there. Not all of them are responding to the bait,” he said.
The BLM is conducting the bait operation because it says no more than 362 horses should occupy the nearly 158,000 acres of primarily public land in the herd management area to protect forage, soil and other resources.
The BLM is working with the local volunteer Sand Wash Advocacy Team, or SWAT, to identify horses for treatment or removal, with the aid of records the group keeps on the herd members.
SWAT is affiliated with the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary, a Front Range organization that will be taking in the primarily young horses being removed in the current operation and will work on training them and finding people to adopt them.
The BLM is asking visitors to Sand Wash Basin to keep their distance when they see bait-trapping operations so they don’t inadvertently drive off horses that otherwise might be attracted by the bait.