Horse News

Front Range Equine Rescue Claims BLM Trying To Breed Special Mustangs In Oregon

Source: Denver CBS By JEFF BARNARD

“We just believe the Wild Horse Act was intended to protect wild horses in their natural state, not to turn herd management areas into breeding facilities for specific types of horses,”

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Wild-horse advocates are challenging U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans this summer to round up the famous Kiger and Riddle Mountain mustang herds in eastern Oregon, arguing the agency is developing a “master breed” of wild horses exhibiting characteristics of old Spanish bloodlines that are popular with the public, rather than maintaining wild horses in natural conditions, as the law requires.

The Colorado-based group Front Range Equine Rescue filed an appeal of the roundup plan Wednesday with the Interior Board of Land Appeals.

The appeal argues that the BLM returns to the range only horses exhibiting Kiger characteristics, effectively breeding for those characteristics and depleting the gene pool, endangering the ability of the herds to survive in the wild.

“We just believe the Wild Horse Act was intended to protect wild horses in their natural state, not to turn herd management areas into breeding facilities for specific types of horses,” said attorney Bruce Wagman, who represents the wild horse group.

The next roundup is expected in mid-August, with adoptions at the wild horse corrals in Hines in October, the BLM said. Plans call for keeping off the range up to 105 Kigers out of a herd of 141, and 48 Riddle Mountains out of a herd of 73, according to BLM documents.

BLM spokesman Jeff Campbell said bureau lawyers were still examining the appeal, but the bureau keeps close track of the herds’ genetic diversity, bringing in outside horses to the herd when needed, and returns to the range horses less likely to be adopted.

Wagman said the appeal was the first challenge of a BLM wild horse roundup based on genetic issues. Other challenges have been based on claims of cruelty and whether environmental laws have been followed. Some wild-horse advocates also object to the use of contraceptive to control herd numbers.

Wagman said the appeal was not seeking an order immediately stopping the gather, but they hoped the BLM would hold off until the appeal was settled.

The BLM has put on hold plans to round up 300 wild horses in Nevada after a federal judge temporarily blocked it earlier this year for fear of harm to the mustangs.

The BLM gathers the Kiger and Riddle Mountain herds every four years to control their effect on the range. While other wild horse herds rounded up around the West often go begging, the BLM website says that nearly every one of the Kiger and Riddle Mountain horses brought in is adopted, some in competitive bidding. Meanwhile, nearly 50,000 wild horses are held by the BLM at a cost of $43 million a year because no one wants them.

Located about 50 miles south of Burns, the Kigers are known for being strong compact horses that bond closely with people. They come with distinctive markings, such as a stripe down the back, zebra stripes on the lower legs, long contrasting manes and fine muzzles. The most common colors are dun, but a slate gray known as grulla, and a light buckskin known as claybank, are highly prized.

At one auction in 1999, a claybank filly sold for $19,000. Another served as the model for a 2002 animated movie about wild horses called “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.”

“By capitalizing on the fame and desirability of the Kiger Mustang to the detriment of other horses presently found in the Kiger and Riddle Mountain (herds), BLM is participating in the unlawful commercial exploitation of wild horses that the Wild Horse Act sought to prohibit,” the appeal argues.

“By reducing the genetic diversity in the (herds) to only those horses with Kiger Mustang characteristics, and then conducting gathers every four years to round up these valuable Kiger horses to sell them for adoption, BLM effectively creates a breeding facility that injures the wild horses’ survival possibilities and benefits only BLM and private actors desirous of purchasing this ‘breed,’” the appeal said.

9 replies »

  1. I saw this, it is making its way through social media. Great job, do you think it will make a difference.


  2. It’s just bizarre. Can we please just stop mucking up the works with wild animals and their habitats? This is not what the American public expects from agencies entrusted with protecting out wildlife. This is not what the Horses and Burros Act is about!!! Talk about bringing about their own conclusions as to origin. The public wants our wild horses just as they are and left alone!!!! Nobody cares how much they sell for, and it’s a scary thought as to what that means. You can’t say horses are ‘overpopulated’ and then start breeding them to be sold, if that’s what they have in mind. Good God.


    • Have these people ever passed by or briefly encountered the word ethics in their lives? Sometimes I wonder.


  3. No doubt about what the BLM is doing – they are managing for extinction of the WILD horses and burros. In ten or twenty or fifty years from now the remnants of our wild horses will only be in zoo-like facilities as we can see today with so many of the previously wild animals of the world. Therefore they will not be “wild” and survival of the fittest will be long long gone from these animals. Does anyone still think that monkeys in a cage at the zoo are “wild animals”? One definition of “wild” is “living or growing independently of people, in natural conditions, and with natural characteristics”.


    • What makes them so fascinating is that they are wild and they’ve managed to survive all these years looking pretty darn good. Watching them in their own habitat with their herd families is what’s fascinating.


  4. Earth is on the edge of a Sixth Extinction

    Close to half of all living species on the Earth could disappear by the end of this century, and humans will be the cause.

    This is the Sixth Mass Extinction – a loss of life that could rival the die-out that caused the dinosaurs to disappear some 65 millions years ago after an asteroid hit the planet.

    This time though, we’re the asteroid.

    At least that’s how Elizabeth Kolbert, the author of the book ‘The Sixth Extinction,’ sees it.

    “We are deciding,” Kolbert writes, “without quite meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will forever be closed. No other creature has ever managed this, and it will, unfortunately, be our most enduring legacy.”
    In ‘The Sixth Extinction’ Kolbert traces our understanding of extinction from the first time it was proposed as a theory in the 1740s until now, with scientists mostly agreeing that humans may be causing it.

    It took scientists a long time to accept the idea that entire species could disappear.


  5. FRER is always the forefront in the education and protection of equines all over the United States and they are so well accomplished and successful at making everyone aware of
    the needs for all types of horses to the public in a matter of truth and dignity. FRER is always one step ahead of the actions of other misleading animal groups in a grand effort to protect and preserve the wonderful equines everywhere! FANTASTIC job Front Range, we all appreciate all of your hard work and dedication!


  6. I have studied the Kigers in the wild for 5 years now and can say that this story has missed the boat on many issues. The BLM has been doing a selective return for this herd for almost 40 years now. What that means is they gather all the horses and release the best ones back out to the range. They also have been adding mustangs from other HMA’s for the same 40 years that exhibit the same Spanish characteristics. This is sound management practice and has been followed by many other government organizations that mange wildlife. Front Range has in essence asked for a “gate cut” in the selection process for return. This would greatly diminish the genetic diversity options to maintain the herd. It would leave out all the other efforts already in place that I have mentioned plus it would eliminate the mixing of the Kiger and Riddle herds that is also done each gather. With a 100% adoption rate for the Kigers they are one of the true success stories the BLM has. That said people must understand that the real issue is the fact that the returned , post gather numbers are ridiculously low. When they did the first gatherers in the Kiger and Riddle HMA’s back in the mid 1970’s the Kiger HMA count in 1974 was 195 (East Kiger and Smyth creek ) post gather return number 105 ( current figure is about 40 ) and Riddle HMA 1975 count was 260 , 1976 post gather return number was 55 ( current figure is about 30 ) so as you can see to further hinder the selection process would be a genetic catastrophe for the Kigers in regards to the low return numbers which are well bellow the historic figures when the HMA’s were created. Other advocate groups such as the Cloud Foundation have called for the use of PZP on the Kiger herds which when only 25 horses are returned to Riddle would only leave about two stallions doing all the breeding with only a couple of mares of which the BLM has no idea what mares are actually directly from those stallions. The BLM has shown no interest in my data regarding regarding the band makeups so it would all be a crap shoot for them. Although the intentions of these advocacy groups are good their execution of what they think should be done would both be catastrophic for the Kigers. What needs to be done is maintain a higher and more stable count for genetic diversity reasons. This could be done by switching to bait trapping which could maintain a higher number of horses at a stable rate . It would also make it easier to react to such things as drought or other issues that pop up. Getting the numbers post gather increased is the single most important step to ensure the genetic diversity of the Kigers. The other big issue is the BLM auctioning off studs to the public. This has created a huge breeding issue with Kigers in the domestic world and the bad large breeders and backyard breeders have left a huge number of domestic bred Kigers flooding the horse market. The improper care these breeders give is also a huge issue. Most if not all are associated with the two domestic Kiger registries that benefit from the BLM policy of adopting out studs. Front range is one of the advocate groups that could be very helpful in this regards since they already advocate the gelding of studs. As the only person that is really studying the Kigers in the wild I would be pleased to answer any questions in regards to the needs and concerns the Kigers have. I can be contacted at Lee Williams.


Care to make a comment?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.