Red Desert (Wyo.) update: 1,969 wild horses captured, 10 killed

/ In The News, News, Roundups
A contractor’s helicopter pursues wild horses on the Red Desert Complex on Oct. 12. Photo by Meg Frederick for RTF.

The Bureau of Land Management has captured 1,969 wild horses from the Red Desert Complex in Wyoming through Thursday, when the roundup resumed after a four-day delay in helicopter drive-trapping due to low cloud cover, snow and cold.

A total of 170 wild horses have been returned to the range, including 95 mares treated with the safe, proven and humane fertility control vaccine PZP-22, intended to slow herd growth.

Ten wild horses have been reported dead through the first 34 days of the roundup, most recently one on Nov. 5 that suffered a “fractured leg or pelvis.”

BLM aims to remove 2,400 “excess” wild horses from the complex — about 80 percent of the horses on Herd Management Areas in Sweetwater, Fremont, Carbon and Natrona counties west and south of Wyoming Highway 287.

The BLM plans to turn back out a total of 305 horses, including about 150 mares that will be treated with PZP-22, to “ensure genetic variability and to preserve the New World Iberian Genotype present in the complex.”

The BLM estimates the wild horse population of the Red Desert Complex to be about 3,000 wild horses, several times over the agency-set “Appropriate Management Level” of 480-724 wild horses.

The agency also says the removal is necessary because “horses are moving outside of their established herd management areas and causing impacts in areas not identified for their management,” according to a press release.

The roundup is a continuation of another in August 2018, which was brought to an end after 11 days due to a lack of off-range holding capacity. A total of 1,444 wild horses were removed and 10 killed before the postponement. During the 2018 roundup, 25 wild horses were returned to the range, including 12 mares treated with fertility control.

The BLM will transport wild horses removed from the range to holding facilities in Rock Springs, Wyo., Canon City, Colo., and other locations, to be readied for adoption or sale. Some will be shipped to the Wyoming Honor Farm in Riverton, Wyo., or the Mantle Adoption and Training Facility in Wheatland, Wyo., for gentling before being made available for adoption.

The BLM-set “Appropriate Management Level” for the Red Desert Complex is 480-724 horses — as low as one horse for every 1,569 acres of the complex, which includes 703,500 acres of public land and 49,500 acres of private land.

For livestock in the complex, BLM has allotted 69,889 Animal Unit Months. One AUM is the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow-calf combination, one horse, 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 the agency.

The Red Desert Complex includes the Antelope Hills, Crooks Gap, Green Mountain, Lost Creek and Stewart Creek Herd Management Areas in south-central Wyoming.

Attending the roundup

The BLM will escort interested members of the public to gather observation sites located on public lands. Those interested must notify Sarah Beckwith at sbeckwith@blm.gov or 307-347-5207.

Participants must provide their own transportation, water and food. The BLM recommends a four-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle. The following COVID-19 guidelines will apply: 

  • Always stay at least six feet from others. Avoid gathering with others outside of your household. 
  • Bring hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol as restrooms will not be available. 
  • Do not attend the gather if you are sick, recently exposed (within 14 days) to someone with COVID-19 or are not feeling well. 

TAKE ACTION: Urge Congress to press the Bureau of Land Management to implement a robust program of proven, safe and humane fertility control in order to phase out roundups and manage wild horses and burros humanely on the range

Donate to RTF’s Wild Horse Defense Fund

See BLM’s tentative roundup calendar

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