Horse News

BLM Suspends Wild Horse Stampede in Sand Wash Basin CO until Next Year

Story by Sasha Nelson as published on Steam Boat

“Wild Horse bands will be together for the holidays and then their freedom and families will be forever destroyed!”

— The Bureau of Land Management has suspended until Jan. 3 the bait-trap operation used to gather wild horses in Sand Wash Basin.

“We are taking a break from the gather for the holidays until Jan. 3, when we will resume,” said BLM Public Affairs Specialist for the Northwest Colorado District, David Boyd.

Sand Wash Basin is located roughly 45 miles west of Craig and is home to nearly 600 wild horses, roughly twice the number allowed in the BLM management plan for the area.

To help control the horse population, BLM contractor Cattoor Livestock Roundup Company has been trapping horses using hay as bait.

They plan to remove 50 young horses from the herd and to treat 200 mares with PZP birth control.

In order to administer birth control, BLM must capture the mares, give them a fertilization vaccination and release them back into the basin.

Horses that are captured and do not need treatment or are not eligible for removal are released.

The gather started in early November, and so far, BLM has captured 117 horses, Boyd said.

They have released 83, including 12 mares treated with birth control, and a total of 34 young horses have been transported to BLM’s wild horse holding facility in Cañon City, Boyd said.

“Twelve of the 34 horses were shipped to Cañon City Tuesday — nine studs and three mares, all in good condition,” Boyd said.

BLM is receiving help from the Sand Wash Basin Advocacy Team (SWAT) — the on-range program of the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary.

More information about adopting Sand Wash Basin horses is available from the SWAT Facebook page.

33 replies »

  1. BEWARE….Holidays are NOT safe for Wild Horses or Burros

    Pine Nut Range Wild Horse Families Destroyed
    Nov 28, 2010

    By Robert Winkler
    BLM Rips Nursing Foals from their Mares

    PINE NUT RANGE, Nevada
    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is breaking up natural horse family groups again, this time in the Dayton area of the Pine Nut Range of northwestern Nevada.

    More shamelessly they have removed foals from there dams and shipped of the young to a holding area called the Palomino Valley facility where they have been thrown in with the general population.

    Foals, many still nursing were ripped from their mothers, separated for over 24 hours and a deliberate attempt to keep this quiet, apparently using the holiday to distract citizens, while the foals slipped into the void.

    This morning the BLM’s plan was to release all the mares and leave all 22 foals behind. Foals were transported from the Lohanton temporary holding area to Palomino Valley Center and added to the foal population there. After public outrage plans were changed and the wet mares have been transported to Palomino Valley to match up with their foals for release early next week.

    The initial call to take the nursing foals from their mothers and release only the mares, came from Alan Shepard. This was confirmed at the site today.

    Last night word came that there would be no roundup of wild horses today. BLM claimed it was a day for treating the horses with fertility drugs and the public was not allowed, since the horses were very skittish.
    The Pine Nut horses by all accounts are quite accustomed to people as they are very popular among the people who live nearby.

    BLM stated that Friday would be a release day for the 122 horses they captured yesterday. however, it is another BLM lie.


  2. How in the World can we stop this? Except I would remind Catherine Cortez Mantos she was elected by the people of Nevada and contributors to her campaign..How inhumane to take the babies away from their mothers. Sick bastards!! They want them to die! Where are they going to put these horses?


    • Gail, Louie posted an event from 2010 as an example of how wild horses are not safe during the holidays to go along with the article R.T posted about the Sand Wash Basin horses. 🙂


  3. Why would these people do something so inhumane except for sadism? Publicize far and wide, if these people are even capable of feeling shame, I don’t know. I can’t tell you how happy I will be when somebody ‘reorganizes’ the BLM and the other agencies, that only cater to the needs of people, no matter how trivial, selfish, and vile. These poor animals can’t defend themselves or speak out, so anything goes I guess. Things we’d never now do to other humans (historically they’ve tried), because people have defenders. Animals don’t have as many defenders.


  4. A few years back, BLM published that the Sand Wash HMA wild horse population jumped 94% in ONE year. That would be 202 total horses having 190 successful healthy surviving foals in that one year. WHY is this so important? Because these are the figures that BLM gives to Congress when requesting funding and justification for wild horse and burro capture and management plans. This is fraud against the American tax-payer.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, trying again here. Bait trapping is NOT a stampede and is undeniably an improvement over the horrible helicopter roundups conducted in the Sand Wash HMA in 2008. This is a misleading headline, regardless of your opinions.


  6. From OPB
    Live Trapping Often Results In Death For Wild Horses
    by Vince Patton

    Fatal injuries like this are more often associated in the public eye with helicopter roundups, which have led to substantial protests over the last few years. However, data shows passive traps have been even more lethal in Oregon.

    And once they’ve made it to the corrals, records show that wild horses aren’t out of danger.

    Records obtained from the BLM show that passive traps in Oregon have been more deadly than helicopter roundups were in the state. Since 2010, under 1 percent of the horses have died in both types of operations


    MORE HORSES KILLED BY BLM – Wild Horse Herd Death Rate at 15% at Murderer’s Creek, Oregon Bait and Trap Site

    Here is Reality Folks – Time for BLM and their Bastard Contractors and Supporters to get out of the business of Managing America’s Icon’s – the Wild Horses!

    BAIT AND TRAP – Murderer’s Creek, Oregon 47 Wild Horses Killed –
    A 15% Death Rate – Murderer’s Creek – between Oct / 2012 thru July / 2014

    Liked by 1 person

    • This effort is aiming to be as humane and low stress as possible, combines quite a few concerned citizens coordinating with the BLM, and aiming for the highest positive outcomes for the horses removed (highest chances of being adopted, least genetic impact on the remaining families), and removals kept as low as possible. Given it simply isn’t a biological possibility to allow confined animals to reproduce freely forever, we need better and more humane strategies for managing wild herds. This seems to be a step in a more positive direction, no helicopter stampede but a slow and careful process with a lot of oversight from folks very concerned about the horse’s welfare. As I understand it the AML here is something around 300 horses but the BLM insists there are well over 600 there now, so removing 50 is far less than they could insist upon legally, and they certainly could hire helicopters again as was done in 2008 with disastrous consequences. I wish every HMA had a vigilant citizenry nearby to keep tabs on them continuously as SWAT does.

      Here’s the info from the SWAT FB page posted yesterday (linked above).

      “The first round of the gather is over, the BLM and contractors have gone home for the Holidays. The gather started on November 9th, and ended December 20th. A total of 103 horses were gathered, 35 were transported to the BLM facilities in Canon City, CO. 1 foal (with a pre-existing traumatic injury) was euthanized after removal from the range and evaluation by a private veterinarian. The rest were returned to the range, with mares receiving PZP if required, before release. The BLM expects to return in the 2017 for an additional 15 removals, for a total of 50.

      For the first few weeks of the gather, SWAT had volunteers on the ground for several weeks. At the start, we waited with a feeling of dread for the first band to enter a trap. We knew the bands in the area and wondered, who would it be? Turned out to be Hurricane and his family. The entire band had entered, except mare Rudi, who stayed in the area. It was sad to see her separated from her family, and we were stressed to see the band in the trap. Tears flowed! But not for long, we had a job to do. We were there not just to ID the horses, but to observe their treatment and care after capture. We watched from a distance as the wranglers backed a trailer up to the trap. It was a slow process to load them in the trailer, some horses were not willing. Dear Pablina put up a fight, she’s been rounded up before and probably had bad memories. They ended up leaving Pablina, Liberty and her foal Zenobia in the trap, and transported the others. The horses remained in the trap overnight, with Rudi vigilantly watching nearby. By morning, Rudi had also been trapped, and these four were transported and joined Hurricane and band in the corral pens.

      The first hurdle was over. Now it was time to help sort the horses, to identify which horses stayed and which would be held and transported to Canon City. Decisions were made based initially on the Do Not Remove list, and removals were discussed with SWAT supporters working remotely, who aided in identification and provided support to those on the range. Sorting included moving the horses out of the pen and into the chutes, where the mares were treated with PZP as appropriate. After sorting, horses to remain on the range went into one pen, and those who would be transported to another.

      Returning the horses to the range was bittersweet. The band was split, some of their lives had changed forever. But some were to be returned, and we wanted to watch. We followed the trailer up north, where it was backed up to a trap. The idea was the horses would all enter the trap, and would stay together. The trailer gate was opened, and the horses jumped out. Some entered the trap but Allie took her foal Little Thunder and headed north at a quick pace. Hurricane had to move some of his mares out of the trap (they were eating hay) and work to get Aponi and Toponas to move and catch up with the others. And so they came together, 5 less than they were before.

      This scenario played out over and over. Some horses jumped the panels and escaped! Some came near the traps but never entered. Some bands returned to the trap multiple times, only to be released and caught again. Yellowman, really, 5 times? There were humorous moments!

      Thanks to those who supported us with encouraging kind words, food, and even wine. It meant a lot to us, and we are very grateful. We also thank the BLM and the contractor employees for working with us, meeting our requests and keeping this gather as non-traumatic as possible for the horses.

      We wish you all a safe and Merry Christmas!”

      Liked by 1 person

      • If only this kind of cooperation was allowed at every roundup – yeah it would make a difference. These horses were lucky – but there are so many who dont have that kind of experience. I know WHE has worked hard to get cooperation, but from the sound of things – its going the other way again. This whole attitude of the BLM is SO stupid – think how much easier it could be! But this, I’m sure, is from the top down of the DOI.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. The Foal that had to be put down must have been injured during the BLM Bait Trapping operation in October:

    BLM to Gather Sand Wash Wild Horses in October
    The BLM Little Snake Field Office will begin gathering up to 50 wild horses from the Sand Wash Herd Management Area in October under a decision signed today.
    Beginning October 21, the BLM will bait-trap wild horses in northwestern Colorado’s Sand Wash Basin in order to administer fertility control treatments and remove up to 50 young horses, which will be placed in the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary (GEMS) training and adoption program.

    A foal that was injured in mid to late October “was removed to obtain veterinarian assistance only to find his left hind growth plate was shattered.

    Click to access nr-20160921-Final_Sand_Wash_Gather_Decision.pdf


    • Loueee, that is reaching. Nobody knows how the foal was injured, and there are regular injuries and deaths in wild herds, including this one. They don’t (yet) live in a zoo.

      My point is we all get nowhere by further polarizing even good efforts from concerned citizens. Agreed, there are problems. Agreed, there are many things wrong with our current management system. Agreed, wild horses should remain wild, in the wild. But it is very rare that legal HMAs are managed exclusively for wild horses and burros. In the Sand Wash the sheep have a legal right to be there, too.

      How to help wild horses through this management tangle is something I (and I know you do as well) work at every damn day. While we must never forget the past, let’s not in our passion overlook the small good steps when we see them happening. Let’s make them bigger and stronger!

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re right IcySpots…we don’t know for certain how the Foal was injured.
        I do feel that it’s important that the Public isn’t lulled into thinking that bait trapping is not injurious to Wild Horses and/or Burros. Far too many have been injured or killed.
        There has yet to be proof positive that they are the sole cause of range damage, and my point of contention is that they are pulled out of their HMAs without good reason.
        The BIG danger, as I see it, is that the AMLs are so low that they will eventually be wiped out altogether.
        I’ve had some conversations with a long-time Horse breeder who know a great deal about genetics….something that most of us don’t really know much about.
        It takes far longer to recover from genetic loss than we realize and the damage has been going on for a long time. They’re starting to see it in the East coast Herds now.


  9. Wild Horses: The Proposed Destruction of the Sand Wash Basin Herd
    June 21, 2014
    As most of us know who follow these issues, nothing makes the BLM more frantic than hearing that a wild horse herd is over AML. It is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Despite the fact that the range is in fair shape given all the moisture this year and the extremely healthy condition of the horses, that is unacceptable to them.

    Sand Wash Basin has leases for sheep grazing and the destruction that these huge groups of hundreds of sheep have caused over decades leaves the range in poor condition in many areas. But it is the overgrazing of sheep and not the wild horses that has caused and perpetuates this damage.


    • Louiee, this HMA is the one closest to me so I try to tune into it more than others. It is a popular tourist site visited by many as it is easily accessible and includes some famous and colorful horses. It is true that sheep grazing leases are allowed here, but it’s also true that this area in particular is still responding to the massive overgrazing by both beef and cattle during the Open Range era.

      Most of the sheep grazing leases today are stocked below their allowed AUMs as well. Most of the old timers around here still insist those horses were ranch stock turned loose so they do not value them at all. However, this is a legal HMA, so friction continues.

      The range (and the horses) by many accounts were in great shape this year. This is, however, still a desert area and the horses are reproducing with few predators. I think the efforts underway here at humane and limited management offer promise of a better way forward for our society and our wild horses. The simple fact that this article (and others) were published in our local papers is the result of a lot of input from many of us in this part of CO to raise awareness and interest, all which can help with future management. This HMA is increasingly surrounded by Oil and Gas drill pads and two massive power transmission lines just approved by Sally Jewell, so public awareness and interest may make all the difference for the future of wild horses in the Sand Wash Basin HMA.

      I agree bait trapping has its own set of complications, but in my view they pale dramatically by comparison with the heinous helicopter stampedes which hopefully we can relegate to history books as more humane strategies become the norm.


      • IcySpots, when was the last time a genetic test done on them?
        Are there enough BREEDING Mares & Stallions remaining in the Herd after removals and anti-fertility treatment to ensure that the Herd remains viable and healthy?


      • Louiee, I tried to find that information a couple of years ago and found nothing, though a study was supposedly begun after the disastrous 2008 helicopter roundups and the PZP implemented afterwards. SWAT would have the best information, and from what I know they have provided lists and are monitoring which horses the BLM removes, which they treat, and which they leave alone.


    • Louiee, you need to thank SWAT, they are really the “boots on the ground” trying and managing to make a real difference, which is why I defended them here. We need better strategies to get out of the gridlock which ultimately fails both the public and our wild horses.


    • Thanks, Louie. I think there must be records specific to the Sand Wash HMA from 2008 onwards, but they are hidden down a prairie dog hole somewhere!


  10. Several years ago I spoke with a manager at one of the Forest Service Wild Horse Territories. I wanted to know why they had captured and removed Horses there and where they had been sent. In talking to him, he told me something about the local history there and the stories of the “Nickering Herd”.
    There had been a very small Herd in that area that could be heard at night…nickering to each other. It was strange behavior for Wild Horses as they usually move about quietly at night. Finally someone figured it out…they were all blind. That was the way they could keep track of each other.
    Someone that understood WH&B Herd genetics far better than I did explained that most probably the blindness was due to fact that the Herd size had been kept too low.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Louie, here’s a 2009 BLM Instruction Memo in which they clearly indicate an awareness inbreeding may lead to blindness in the herds they manage (just posting here, not saying I agree with it):

      Background: The BLM has been collecting genetic health information about its wild horse and burro populations since the early 1990’s. To date, approximately 75% of the 199 HMAs that BLM administers have been tested and many have been retested. Based on this data, inbreeding is apparently rare in wild horse populations. Most wild horse herds that have been sampled exhibit moderate levels of genetic heterozygosity. Based on this analysis, approximately 12.5% of the herds tested have heterozygosity levels (observed heterozygosity (Ho)) below the assumed critical level of .310. These are herds that could begin to show inbreeding effects. Approximately 15% of the herds tested are within just 2% heterozygosity (.330) of the critical level. A population that is maintained at less than 100-120 adult animals may begin to lose variation fairly quickly. The herds that are just above the critical threshold level could drop very quickly. Only a very small number (approximately 5) of the 199 HMAs have exhibited characteristics possibly attributable to inbreeding, such as cataract blindness, dwarfism, parrot-mouth, or club-foot deformities. Thus, there does not appear to be any immediate cause for concern about inbreeding depression in wild horse herds.


  11. IcySpots, from what I understand (from someone who’s been in the business for several decades) it takes a long time to correct inbreeding.
    In order to keep a Herd viable there has to be at least 150 Horses that are capable of reproducing, so those that are either too young, have been given anti-fertility drugs…or can’t reproduce for any reason can’t be counted.


    • Louie, agreed. As I recall the IUCN puts the minimum viability number at 1,500 minimum, so 150 is already far to narrow a gene pool. However, as we all know the BLM has whittled down acres wild horses are allowed to exist on, and closed out hundreds of legal areas, so they are tightening the noose.


  12. IcySpots, the other thing that must be corrected is…that 22 Million Acres (a conservative estimate) must be returned to them.
    Wild Horses & Burros must be allowed to “mix and mingle” and migrate.
    Fences and cattle guards on HMAs are a HUGE problem.


    • Louie, I agree with you in spirit, but it is clear at least some of those acres have been sold or irreparably altered (like water rights sold or solar panels and wind farms installed for some examples), so the problem then becomes how to reallocate land already put to other purposes, which is a much harder sell. The law is clear wild horses and burros were only protected on areas identified in 1971, which is a further complication, and that they weren’t to have exclusive but only principal use. What has happened since is of course the most cynical interpretation of the law imaginable. Surely some lands could host horses again; what comes to mind is the illegal removal of over 1200 horses from the WY Checkerboard in 2014. Those horses removed probably can’t be easily located and returned, but some effort should be made to do so as these know the area best. Alternatively, some of those in LTH could be released there to live out their lives, surely.
      It would help to have WHB Advisory Board with some actual teeth that could enact and enforce both the intent and letter of our existing laws.


  13. IcySpots, I think it’s going to take the Public to put the teeth into it as was done when the Wild Horse & Burro Act was passed.
    Positive change always has to come from the ground up.


  14. IcySpots, have you ever met Picasso and Lightning?
    I hope you do get a chance to go to the Sand Wash Basin HMA

    Picasso & Lightning Reunited
    Published on Jul 23, 2015
    Mustang stallions Picasso and Lightning from Sand Wash Basin HMA in Colorado were separated when we found them. This is a video of their reuniting. Watch how these two move. Beautiful!


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