Sulphur roundup: Two more Utah wild horses euthanized as capture total nears 500

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A wild horse flees from a contractor’s helicopter on Thursday at the Sulphur Horse Management Area in Utah. All photos by Steve Paige for RTF.

Fifty-five wild horses were captured and two euthanized on Thursday during the ongoing Bureau of Land Management helicopter roundup at the Sulphur Horse Management Area in Utah.

A 3-year-old bay stud was euthanized because of a pre-existing right front shoulder fracture, according to BLM, as was a 6-year-old black mare with a body condition of 2.0 and a “poor prognosis of improvement” (to see a PDF of the 10-point body condition scale, please click here).

They were the fourth and fifth wild horses known to have died during the roundup. On Jan. 22, about five to six miles away from the trap site along State Highway 21, a contractor’s truck collided with a wild horse on that has not been located.

A total of 499 wild horses have been captured since Jan. 18.

The contractor’s helicopter pilot grew much more aggressive on Thursday than on previous days, according to RTF humane observer Steve Paige noted: “Horses ran for their lives.” Among the wild horses captured were two roped and guided into the trap pens after splitting away from their families while under pressure from the helicopter.

The BLM plans to capture about 700 wild horses between now and Jan. 31 from the Sulphur HMA, which is located about 50 miles west of Milford, Utah.

About 300 of the young wild horses will be permanently separated from their family bands and put up for adoption. Those not adopted will be moved to long-term holding facilities, according to the agency.

About 400 of the older wild horses will be re-released, including 100 to 150 mares treated with the fertility control vaccine PZP-22.

The roundup is part of a BLM plan to reduce the Sulphur HMA’s population to an Appropriate Management Level of 165 wild horses over a six- to 10-year period. In March 2016, the wild horse population on the 265,675-acre HMA was estimated at 957 head.

The BLM also justifies roundups near State Highway 21 as being conducted for public safety reasons. None of the wild horses captured during the first two days will be among those released because they were captured near the highway. There is a proposal to install a fence there, but it’s unlikely to go up sooner than next month.

Photos from Jan. 26:

How to attend:

Members of the public who wish to view the roundup should call the BLM’s gather hotline at (801) 539-4050 for daily updates.

Participants must provide their own transportation, water and food.

The BLM recommends footwear and clothing suitable for harsh winter weather. Binoculars and four-wheel drive, high clearance vehicles are also strongly recommended. No public restrooms will be available once the tour begins.

You can help:

Please consider a contribution to the Wild Horse Defense Fund, which makes it possible for Return to Freedom to have humane observers on the ground at roundups. Having an active voice has proven valuable for holding BLM and contractors accountable for the humane handling of wild horses, pressing for improvements to humane standards, and educating policymakers and the public about how tax dollars are being used.