Red Desert Complex (Wyo.) update: 477 wild horses captured, 46 mares treated with fertility control

/ In The News, News, Roundups
A contractor’s helicopter pushes wild horses toward the trap site during a 2017 roundup in Wyoming’s Checkerboard region. RTF file photo by Steve Paige.

The Bureau of Land Management has captured 477 wild horses from the Red Desert Complex in Wyoming through Saturday.

Ninety wild horses have been returned to the range, including 46 mares treated with the safe, proven and humane fertility control vaccine PZP-22, intended to slow herd growth.

One wild horse has been reported dead through the first eight days of the roundup. On Friday, a wild horse died or was euthanized due to an unspecified pre-existing or chronic condition.

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 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.