All of the captured wild horses were shipped to the Axtell (Utah) Off-Range Contract Facility. Ten mares were to be treated with fertility control then retreated 30 days later before their release along with 10 studs.
Located about 28 miles east of Price, Utah, the HMA is made up of 43,235 acres of BLM-managed land and 11,788 acres of state, private and other federal lands.
The agency is conducting the roundup because the herd’s numbers have grown beyond the agency’s population target, or Appropriate Management Level, set at 75-125 animals or as low as one horse for every 734 acres, and because wild horses are wandering onto adjacent private lands.
BLM currently estimates the population at 184 horses and projects that population to grown to 220 with this year’s foals.
By comparison, BLM allocates 3,267 Animal Unit Months to private cattle grazing on the HMA (one AUM equals the forage for one cow-calf pair for one month). Because of drought, livestock use has been limited to 15% of that authorized, according to 2019 BLM planning documents.
Of the captured wild horses, 10 are to be treated with the fertility control vaccine GonaCon. The rest will be transported to the Axtell, Utah, Off-Range Contract Wild Horse Facility to be prepared for adoption or sale.
While RTF is a strong supporter of the use of fertility control to phase out BLM’s decades-old practice of capture and removal, we remain guarded about the use of the longer-lasting fertility control vaccine GonaCon. Because it interrupts the hormone cascade, GonaCon may cause other behavioral changes that would affect herd dynamics. As such, RTF would like to see more studies to ensure that GonaCon meets the parameters of ethical and thoughtful wildlife fertility control. That is the case with PZP, a non-hormonal vaccine with more than three decades of research behind it that RTF has used at its sanctuary with a 91-98% efficacy rate.
Attending the roundup
Observers must provide their own transportation, water, and food. No public restrooms are available. Binoculars and four-wheel drive or other high-clearance vehicles are recommended. Details on the BLM-escorted tours will be updated each evening during the gather and announced daily o at (801) 539-4050.
Because the roundup will begin on private land, public observation will not be available until Friday, July 3. Those who wish to participate should meet at the Millers Wellington Chevron at 2195 East Main St. in Wellington, Utah, from which tours will depart at 6 a.m. Those participating are asked to bring hand sanitizer, observe social distancing rules, and cancel if feeling sick or if they’ve been exposed within 14 days to someone with COVID-19.