Horse Health

BLM and University of Wyoming Continue Dangerous Radio Collar Study on Wild Mares


“They are disturbing the horses, and risking the lives of these mares with this dangerous radio collar study.  They can die from getting tangled up with these collars.  Direct observation is much more humane and more relevant.  I am hoping that all these mares survive the two years they have to endure wearing these collars, and that I will see them with other horses this summer.”     –  Carol Walker


Notice the collar is not behind the ears, but much further down

by Carol Walker, Dir. of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation

On Sunday I headed to Rock Springs, as I was told I would have an opportunity to view the release of the next group of wild mares back into Adobe Town with radio collars on their necks. If you have not been following my blogs on this you may be wondering incredulously “why would anyone do anything so cruel and dangerous to wild mares?”
Well read on and you will see.

Last week, the last mare to be released, Dove, who ran off with her family, had a radio collar that had slipped way down her neck, into what is NOT the correct position for the collar. Many people have been commenting on this, and I am still waiting for an explanation from USGS and the BLM about this. Here are the guidelines for the radio collars:

“The collar should rest just behind the ears of the equid and be tight enough so it does not slip down the neck, yet loose enough that it does not interfere with movement when the neck is flexed. The collar must fit snugly when the head is up to minimize rubbing. USGS researchers used 0-1 finger between collar and neck, depending on season collar is deployed to give consideration to the potential for weight gain. Other studies (e.g. Committee on Wild Horse and Burro Research 1991) have had problems with the fitting of collars due to animals gaining weight in spring, or losing weight in winter, causing collars to become too tight or too loose. In the USGS study, researchers did notice collars were looser or tighter at different times during the year, but it did not affect the behavior of collared mares or jennies, or cause sores or wounds on mares or jennies. Whenever collars are deployed they should be fitted by experienced personnel who can attach the collar quickly but proficiently to minimize handling stress on the animal.”

I am very concerned that this collar must be too loose, can slide around, and probably quite easily get caught in a hoof or a branch or a cliff or a fence. In my opinion, the University needs to immediately trigger the mechanism that they claim can remotely release the collar. I will keep you posted when and if I receive a response and explanation.

10 wild horses from Adobe Town are still at the Rock Springs facility. The longer they are there. the more likely they are to get diseases or become injured. They need to release these horses back into Adobe Town, where they were captured, immediately.


The first mare to be released

There were three mares in the trailer Monday morning as I followed the line of BLM and researchers out to the release sites. I was again the only member of the public along. We drove for over 2 1/2 hours before arriving at our first stop, which was in the northeast portion of Adobe Town, very near where the last mare, Dove had been released with her family.


Dulcinea, looking calm


She trots down the road toward the incoming family band

This grey mare was older, and moved slowly out of the trailer, no panic for her, just curiosity as she looked back at us. I am calling her Dulcinea. She moved along familiarizing herself with where she was, for she had been trapped probably 15 miles from this area. Suddenly we see a family of wild horses moving along the hillside straight toward the road. She sees them, and lifts her head, then trots across the road toward them.


Link to Daily Gather Reports:

23 replies »

  1. “Smart collars”: Taking the wild out of wildlife-and putting it on Facebook?

    No. No thanks, professor. You can keep your data points and signatures, your intrusive, soulless technology, your engineered safety and your human superiority. While your motivation might be the reduction of conflicts, restraint from our own species and accommodation of wild animals with the respect they deserve and the breathing room they need could accomplish the same, couldn’t it?

    I’ll take my chances with the vagaries of the wild. My heart beats a little faster when I hike in grizzly country, and that’s how I like it. Returning from a run at dusk on a winter’s afternoon, I scan my surroundings more frequently for the mountain lion I imagine watching me pass by. I’ll take my chances with my fellow animals in the “splendour and travail” of Henry Beston’s vision:

    We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.

    And I will not log on to Facebook, “friend” a grizzly, and check to see if he ate a hearty breakfast before I lace up my hiking boots.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This procedure is outdated and can be dangerous. Has anyone witnessed the quick release on the collars? And who and where is the information stored that they receive on the mares? Is the information available to the public somewhere since we are paying for it? I had another idea for the horses and burros research. Has anyone thought of using drones to photograph the animals? I heard they used this to research another animal as it can get into and take photos where other avenues can’t. Plus I guess it can document 24 hours. This makes more sense to me as long as no one deleted information. And it certainly can’t be more costly or dangerous then a bunch of yahoos terrorizing the horses. I have heard that the technology is really good.


    • Hi Gail. I saw a video at Rock Springs of a collar being remotely released on a wild burro but all I saw was the burro jumping away – there is no guarantee that these collar releases will work under very cold conditions, which are common in the winter, and we did not get to see the release mechanism work at the Q and A the BLM offered. My understanding is that the funding for the research is a grant University of Wyoming received, but the bait trapping and removal and then release of the horses is being done by the BLM no doubt on the taxpayer dime. The information is being collected by the researchers at the University and so there is no guarantee that the public will ever see any of the data that is collected. And yes this is very old technology, ridiculously outdated. I personally do not think the use of drones would be a good way to study wild horses – the drones would scare the crap out of them, reminding them no doubt of helicopters that have chased them. The very best way to study wild horses is good old fashioned in the field observation, boots on the ground.


  3. As I pointed out elsewhere, that loose collar on the grey mare is also upside down, which may or may not affect how it works or can be released, but it’s not hard to imagine her lowering her head to scratch as she sheds her winter coat and the collar gets itchy, and getting a hoof stuck in it, or worse if she rubs her neck on a t post, oil and gas structures, or even a stout branch. Also possible a foal could get a leg in there in the right circumstances, playing around. They need to hit the “eject” button for this collar ASAP. A dead mare won’t provide much migration data anyways.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you. The collar should be dropped immediately. I have still heard nothing back from the BLM even though we first contacted them about that mare and her slipped collar on last Friday. Either they are still figuring out what to do or how to explain it away, or they are ignoring me. I will let you know if I hear anything.


      • Thanks, Carol. for all you and the other folks at SFTHH do for our wild horses. Looks like Utah just passed a House resolution to repeal the 1971 protections. I expect WY won’t be far behind. We’ve all got to stand a little taller and speak a little louder or live with the regret later, once our wild horses are gone forever from their homelands in the West.

        “HCR-22 passed on a 10-1 vote in the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee in the Utah State Legislature.

        The resolution calls on the president and congress to repeal the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act of 1971.”


    • Here is the response we got from BLM which addresses the collar flipping upside down but does NOT address the fact that it has slipped about 5 -6 inches down the neck when it should be right behind the ears:
      The collars have been fitted to allow for weight gain. The mare in this photo the collar has spun around on her neck, which can happen during trailering back to the site, or if she lied down and rolled. The collars will spin a little, but they do right themselves due the weight of the battery pack eventually.

      The collars have spun on the mares in Utah, but they all righted themselves eventually. Those mares have been collared and have been doing really well since August 2016. Also the burros have been wearing collars since April 2016, and they too have been observed upside down on their necks, but they have all righted themselves. This is common in other ungulates as well; that the collar can spin sometimes.

      I do know that when they put this collar on this mare, they felt it fit her really well. There is padding on both ends, so the part that is in contact with her throat in the photo is padded as well. The concern is that her antenna is facing down, so ideally the collar functions better when the white part is facing the satellites. The collar is functioning on this mare and data is already being collected about her movements. If there is a collar becomes an issue for any mare it will be dropped off.

      We appreciate you sending us the photo along with the inquiry.


      • Thanks, Carol. I guess it’s “nothing to see here, move along” and we can wait for years to know anything more, but of course will be paying in the meantime for most of this “study.” Will any interim reporting be required, or any preliminary or intermittent findings posted on the U of WY websites? In other words, is there any accountability to the public and to other researchers as this continues?


      • This study is under the University of Wyoming’s control so totally up to them if they ever let the public know anything about the results of the study.


  4. Archaic Agencies, Muddled Missions, and Conservation in the 21st Century

    According to organizational theory, bureaucracy is a large organization based on vertical or hierarchical authority. In practice, the bureaucracy is crippled by its own nature: slow response time, rigidity toward change, and customer alienation

    In natural resource conservation, bureaucracies may fail not so much because a wrong decision was made but because the wrong process was followed in decisionmaking and action was postponed too long

    The performance-based system must be accompanied by the recognition of management as a science.
    Whereas agency biologists continue to satisfy requirements in formal academic training in the sciences, the “new” manager must possess formal academic training in the science of management if the reengineering of agencies and conservation in the 21st century is to be successful.
    Natural resource managers trained in conservation science are poorly equipped to protect resources in a political arena where polarized advocates employ spokespersons with advanced business and legal degrees.
    Agency directors, in turn, are political appointees and thus follow agendas outside the profession of resource management. One thing is for sure:
    The bureaucratic problem-solving technique—create another team and request additional funding—has not solved the environment as a debate.


  5. Seems all the urls posted about this gather, from numerous sites, are coming up “not found” even from the BLM home page today. Do they work for anyone else?


  6. The Wild Horse and Burro Prize Challenge

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is exploring the possibility of running an open-innovation prize-based competition, or Prize Challenge, as part of its efforts to improve the management of wild horses and burros on public rangelands. The competition will aim to find innovative solutions to this important and complex issue.

    The BLM is currently in the design phase of the project; formulating the requirements, parameters, and scope of the potential challenge question(s).
    Prize-based challenges have an established track record of spurring innovation in the private, public, and philanthropic sectors. With a focus on proven results, prizes empower untapped talent to deliver unexpected solutions to tough problems because prizes often attract solvers from a variety of adjacent disciplines, increasing the chance for new ideas to be found. By adapting the prize model to solve the challenges facing management of wild horses and burros, the BLM is searching for innovative, out-of-the-box ideas that can offer solutions which support healthy animals on healthy rangelands.

    Wild Horse Prize Workshop

    On May 29, 2014 the BLM hosted stakeholders and other experts at a workshop in Washington, D.C. Through a series of exercises and discussions over the course of the day, workshop participants explored the obstacles and pathways to innovation in the management of wild horses and burros. Below are materials related to this workshop.

    • Agenda
    • List of participants
    • Summary of Workshop


    • Thanks, by the list of people no one? has ever done much at all “for” wild horses. The same ideas BLM has ignored or not worked hard enough on for decades. 24/7 live webcams on all holdings and outdoor ranges for wild horses connected to the main BLM website. Like I promoted 10?? years ago to DOI when they had an “ideas” workshop. That idea got the most votes as easiest way for the general public to see & observe BLM at work & care of the horses. and was lowest in costs. Hundreds, thousands of live webcams today 24/7 in cities, parks, zoos, kennels, underwater to orca watch and not ONE webcam for our Wild Horses in holding, round-ups or open range.


      • There is a very good reason for that – the BLM does NOT want the public to see what happens to our wild horses in Short and Long Term Holding, and especially wants no one to see what happens during roundups.


  7. 700,000-Year-Old Horse Found in Yukon Permafrost Yields Oldest DNA Ever Decoded

    The frozen remains of a horse more than half a million years old have reluctantly given up their genetic secrets, providing scientists with the oldest DNA ever sequenced.
    The horse was discovered in 2003 in the ancient permafrost of Canada’s west-central Yukon Territory, not far from the Alaskan border.
    And although the animal was dated to between 560,000 and 780,000 years old, an international team of researchers was able to use a new combination of techniques to decipher its genetic code.
    (Read about another recent find: “Wyoming Cave Yields a Trove of Ice Age Fossils — and Ancient Animal DNA“)


    • Thanks for posting the update link. I remember seeing a picture of that “Yukon horse” very woolie coat 🙂 I really think more dating & DNA testing of past 10,000 yrs of horse remains in USA would prove horses never went extinct in North America (USA) . Science has already proven horses are a North American native species.


  8. This is what the citizens of Wyoming want.
    This document is from 2012 Most of it can’t be copied (it’s 80 pages), but on page 19 the Adobe Town Wild Horses are mentioned.


    The noted organizations and entities submit this proposal to the BLM and DOI to
    for future generations to enjoy.

    This proposal grew from the concern of hundreds of Wyoming citizens that these
    irreplaceable wild lands are being lost to development of oil, gas and mining, dirt bikes and off-road vehicle use. Man has a huge impact on Wyoming BLM lands. This modest proposal represents less than 8 % of the total of BLM lands in Wyoming. More importantly, it represents some of the most critical wildlife habitat, some of the most important archeological sites and some of the most remote
    and awe-inspiring recreational areas in the United States

    Click to access ExhK.pdf


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