BLM set to start 2,400-wild horse roundup on Red Desert Complex (Wyo.)

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

As soon as tomorrow, Tuesday, Oct. 6, the Bureau of Land Management plans to begin a helicopter roundup aimed at removing 2,400 “excess” wild horses from the Red Desert 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 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.

Following the roundup, the BLM plans to return an unknown number of mares, treated with an unspecified fertility control vaccine, to “ensure genetic variability and to preserve the New World Iberian Genotype present in the complex.” Calls to BLM for clarification have not yet been returned. During the 2018 roundup, 25 wild horses were return to the range, including 12 mares treated with fertility control.

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.

BLM did not announce where wild horses captured in 2020 will be shipped to be readied for the agency’s adoption and sale program. In 2018, they were During the roundup, wild horses were transported to holding facilities in Rock Springs, Wyo., and Axtell, Utah.

BLM returned 25 wild horses to the range on Thursday, including 12 mares treated with fertility control. BLM selected mares and stallions from among those captured “to ensure genetic variability and to preserve the New World Iberian Genotype present in the complex.”

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. 

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