Horse News

The Devastation of the Red Desert Complex Wild Horse Roundup Continues

by Carol Walker as published on Wild Hoofbeats

On day 5 we had a day off due to wind – I of course spent it with the horses, and saw a rainbow behind a family that I knew. I hoped it would be a sign.

There is another beautiful sunrise as I wait for the helicopters to chase the horses into the trap 1 mile away in the Red Desert Complex Roundup in Wyoming. We are at a location about a mile from the trap site. The winds are calm and it is 21 degrees this morning.

The helicopters were gone for a long time leading me to think they had to go quite a way to get a large group of horses that just came in in the Red Desert Complex Roundup in Wyoming day 5. We are still at the trap site in Stewart Creek. I was able to make out some colors because there is a high overcast of clouds – we have been shooting into the sun so it has been hard to see little more than silhouettes. No one went through the fence but there was lots of rearing and thrashing in the too small pens as they were pushing them in, and now loading them in trailers before taking them to temporary holding. Oh one horse escaped somehow – he disappeared over a ridge.

The wind is picking up and it feels even colder at the Red Desert Roundup this morning. One small family was just driven into the trap – on the way the stallion looked like he was going to defy the helicopter, he looked more determined than afraid, but he and his family were finally driven in. We are not sure how much longer today – it depends on if the winds get much worse.

Just saw three different wild horse families brought in separately over the last hour. Then a lone stallion brought in by himself – you could see his reluctance slowing to almost a stop outside the run up to the trap. But the helicopter won as it usually does. Much of the time after they come into the trap there is a huge amount of dust so you cannot see anything but sometimes there is rearing. They are loaded onto the stock trailers with usually no time to settle. Imagine if you were a wild horse running in fear of a helicopter being forced into a trailer by humans waving flags – it is all terrifying. At the best of times domestic horses can be afraid of getting into trailers.

I am posting tonight since in the morning I most likely will have no reception. I am in WY attending the Red Desert Complex Roundup, the largest roundup in recent history with 2400 wild horses to be removed from 5 Herd Management areas on over 700,000 acres. Today was Day 5 in Stewart Creek. They finished Stewart Creek today, having removed 78 horses today, bringing the total so far for Stewart Creek to 349. The BLM had estimated that there were 511 horses there but it became very obvious as they were bringing horses in the last couple of days that there was nowhere near this number. The original plan was to return 150 horses, 75 stallions and 75 mares treated with PZP – 22 birth control but I was told if they think there are still horses out there they may release less than that.

No injuries and no deaths so far at this roundup which is a very very good thing. I hope this continues.

So tomorrow they are rounding up in a new area – the “out of area” horses. There are 5 Herd Management Areas that surround a Herd Area that is no longer managed for wild horses – Arapahoe Creek that the BLM calls “the donut hole” – they do not even refer to it by its name. They plan to take every single horse from this area. It makes absolutely no sense to have a huge area in the middle not managed for horses when the whole justification behind having the AML for two of the HMAs be so low – 65 horses for Crooks Mountain, 60 for Lost Creek and 60 for Antelope Hills, far below the minimum number needed for genetic diversity (150 adults) is that the horses move between the Herd Management Areas.

This is the viewing area we were at In Arapahoe Creek, a Herd Area no longer managed for wild horses for the roundup on Day 6 in the Red Desert Complex in Wyoming. We could not see the trap at all. We were about a mile away and could see the jute sides leading up to the trap and we could see the helicopters driving the horses toward the trap. Initially there was a small family then a huge group of about 55. Them we had a family of 6 black horses run right by our vehicles and past the trap area.

Then we had several more groups come in, most of the wild horses that I know and love in this area. Unofficial estimate is about 128 horses were captured before the wind came up.

We are now waiting to hear if they will go into Stewart Creek yet again or if only 30 horses are left there, in which case they would subtract 30 from the 150 to be released back into the area. If there are more than 30 found by the pilots there will be another day in Stewart Creek. I am waiting for the 2:30 meeting to go see the horses, dreading to see those familiar faces behind panels and soon to be shipped to the BLM facility at Canon City.

We watched 24 stallions get released back into Stewart Creek with a ranger truck blocking our view and photos. Now only 90 wild horses instead of 150 will be released back into Stewart Creek because the helicopter pilot flew over and said there were 59 horses left.

Just finished visiting the 128 wild horses that were rounded up today No injuries, one horse euthanized a mare because of a badly twisted leg. Because these horses live in a Herd Area, Arapahoe Creek that is not managed for wild horses. So none of them will be returned to their home.

We were told this morning that tomorrow we would get to observe the roundup in the same area in the morning them see the rest of the 45 mares treated with PZP-22 and the 21 stallions released in the afternoon.

As we were touring the corrals we were told we could do one or the other in the morning, because of lack of space, even though they are shipping 100 horses first thing to Canon City. I made my disagreement known but they were adamant. This is not right. Such an easy thing, to let people photograph the very tiny amount of the 2400 horses to be rounded up being released. Such a happy thing. But no. I will be observing the helicopter driving the horses in in the morning, yes I made my choice because that is more important.

Leaving the area, I pass a wonderful small family I had seen once before, they were in LOst Creek and spending time with them hing wild horses I helped ease the pain of watching wild horses I care deeply about lose their freedom forever.

2 replies »

  1. Thank you for your coverage of this gather. The Red Desert herds are gorgeous animals. I hope to see an ongoing description/pics from you.

    I captured wild horses for the BLM for 12 years as a government ‘specialist’ and later as a state level ‘specialist’. Yes – I can see the conflict between wild horses and their habitat. Wild horses’ predators are primarily human induced: fences that restrict their free roaming behavior/ability to reach food/water/shelter; competition with domestic livestock; and politics. Secondary to mankind as predator is mother nature. But human intervention has resulted in wild horses having less chance surviving climate/weather extremes. Horses can no longer roam freely and, confined to specific areas can and do outnumber their range resources. No – I have no answer to this except fertility control, capture and sale. But the government must manage livestock numbers as a pre req to determining the number of horses to be managed on a swath of our public lands.

    I left the BLM and my state level wild horse position 10 years ago after being told by the BLM hierarchy to write whatever planning document would get through the courts so the BLM could capture all of the 60 – 123 wild horses in an area of Colorado/Utah. These horses had self-regulated their numbers for as long as local historic records documented the herd. But politics (the local ranching industry) resulted in a government decision for total removal of the entire herd. I sat in on numerous public meetings listening to the BLM create and being asked to create lies supporting the total removal: the horses were damaging the range; the horses could not survive with the O&G industry; the horses were rubbing against petroglyphs (really- a BLM archaeologist made this unsupported claim); the horses were driving the deer/ek out of their habitat.

    Strangly, livestock nunbers were not slated for reduction- just an entire herd of historic wild horses were to be captured. A herd that moved miles each day; did not trample their springs; split into small bands during harsh winters/hot, dry months resulting in less impact to their range; horses that took advantage of the oil/gas roads to travel, the oil tanks for shade and wind shelter, the developed waters and seedings. Horses that broke the snow trails used by elk and deer in January, February and who grazed side-by-side with these animals,

    Total removal said the government. No reduction in cattle numbers – but every wild horses would be captured and…then what?

    Sitting in court and at public meetings and seeing the local citizens who loved this herd; whose grandfathers/mothers and great grandfathers/mothers had for years caught horses from this herd was enough. I left a lucrative career with the government.

    Again, thank you for your weritten/photo coverage of the gather.

    ~Valerie~

    Like

  2. Omg omg STOP you are wiping out Our wild horses for cattle have you lost your minds what is the matter with you sadistic. Shame on you do your children know what you were doing. This is your legacy Pathetic

    Liked by 1 person

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