Horse News

Feds halt Wild Horse stampede on Colorado basin land, continue herd destruction in adjacent areas

Source: 9 News

“Zeroing Out” Wild Horse Herd operations will continue outside the Herd Management Area on private and public lands.

Photo by Carol Walker

MOFFAT COUNTY, Colo. — The protested helicopter roundup of wild horses in the Sand Wash Basin in Moffat County by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has ended, but continues on adjacent public and private property.

Horse gathering operations will continue outside the Herd Management Area (HMA) on private and public lands in an attempt to gather small, scattered bands of horses known to reside outside the HMA, according to the BLM.

The operation intends to capture more than 100 horses over the next few days.

The BLM cited drought, scorched habitat from wildfires and overpopulation as justification for the roundup, which was done by helicopter.

However, advocates for the herd claim recent monsoons have restored the watering holes, and that the land can support far more than the BLM’s target of 163 horses. They also claimed BLM was clearing out the herd to make more room for sheep and cattle grazing, and that using helicopters was inhumane and could result in injuries and even deaths in the herd.

Horse gather operations in the Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area (HMA) have concluded as of September 8. Horse…

Posted by Bureau of Land Management – Colorado on Thursday, September 9, 2021

On Aug. 30, Gov. Jared Polis joined calls from the public and animal advocates to end the helicopter roundups. He commented Thursday on the BLM’s decision to end the gather:

“The positive announcement today that the Sand Wash Basin wild horse roundups would end early show how federal and state governments can potentially work together. While I wish this roundup hadn’t even started, I’m encouraged by the opportunity to chart a more humane course for our state’s beloved wild horses. The outpouring we heard shows how much people care for the wellbeing of these iconic Colorado animals, and our administration can play a key role in engaging people who can work together to ensure the health and wellbeing of Colorado’s wild horses for generations to come.”

Rep. Joe Neguse also wrote a letter to the BLM asking them to end the operation.

As of Tuesday, Sept. 7, the BLM reported 501 horses were rounded up since Sept. 1 and were being prepared for adoption. The BLM intended to capture 783 horses out of the 828, returning 25 mares and 25 stallions to the herd, to keep it at 163. That’s despite BLM’s own estimate that the habitat could support 362 horses.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article previously stated that the horse roundup was completely finished. However, the roundup still continues on private and public land adjacent to the basin.

RELATED: Helicopters drive wild horses into traps in northwest Colorado

RELATED: Wild horse roundup continues in Moffat County, horses injured, advocates say

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9 replies »

  1. I hope the story of all WHB gathered in the past & those gathered more recently doesn’t end there …

    We, as the advocacy movement, have to continue being the voice for the almost 60K wild horses in BLM off-range corrals!

    These wild horses are suffering grievously from lack of care & lack of accountability, ending-up in kill pens, while we ’emotional’ advocates are served a pablum of niceties about how Fed/State/NGOs bureaucrats are going to provide amazing care for the now almost extinct wild horses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree whole heartedly regarding the horses warehoused by the BLM & FS. But for once, there is a good demonstration of how much the public can affect the outcome! It happened once before when Wild Horse Annie got involved. Its not perfect but maybe, just maybe, there are a few Wild Horses remaining in Sand Wash Basin that likely would have been shuffled off and added to those already in the “warehouses”. If this doesnt fade out of the public eye in the usual fifteen minutes (news cycle) maybe there will be a difference made for other HMAs. We all just need to make sure it remains visible. VERY visible.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It needs to be mentioned that the 25 mares allowed to be released will all be contraceptive treated first, and no mares with foals or any foals were to be allowed to be released, nor any horses younger than 11 years old. This herd has been enduring PZP darting for years already, so is anyone doubtful the intended outcome is to pinch them out entirely in about a decade or less? Even without darting it seems from the BLMs own information this herd was reproducing at about 6% per year, at best.

    Map here shows the BLM estimated at most 500 horses in the Sand Wash HMA in 2012:

    By today’s “estimates” the BLM insists there were between 800 and 900 horses both in and out of the Sand Wash HMA, necessitating the “emergency” roundup. The HMA mares have been darted for years now, and will continue. It’s also a fact that wolves have been documented in the area and are also being introduced into western Colorado — and the presence of thousands of sheep is surely a significant attractant to carnivores who find both species to be natural targets.

    By rough and highest numbers, if the herd was 500 in 2012, and was 900 a week ago, that means by the BLMs own reckoning the population has been increasing at maybe 6% per year, not the 20% dogma we all hear repeatedly. Per the Sand Wash Advocate Team website, an aerial census of the Sand Wash herd was done just prior to initiating the current roundup, but the results and counts have not been made public. Will they ever? If not, why not? If the numbers were as high as they would like the public to think, they should be broadcasting the “overpopulation” but instead have ended the roundup early inside the HMA and are going after small bands outside the HMA boundaries, some of which include stray domestic animals.

    Nothing here passes the smell test for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nothing has passed the smell test for years – maybe decades! Is the Sand Wash Advocate Team actually advocates, or are they “attached” to the BLM? Guessing that the aerial census doesnt jibe with the BLM’s figures!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Looked up SWAT & sounds like they have their hands full – clear they are not BLM attached. Seems hard to believe the Cattoors are still at it making big bucks doing what they do how they do it & no oversight to speak of (other than advocates).

        Liked by 1 person

      • SWAT is a separate nonprofit group that has developed collaborative efforts with the BLM over the years. They’ve done great work as well with Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary here in Colorado to get selected horses bait trapped then humanely trained and then successfully adopted. They have done a LOT of heavy lifting and it is beyond sad that they were tasked to select the 50 horses to return to the HMA from the hundreds they have followed throughout their lives. In one sense it’s great they are involved, but in another a very heavy burden has now fallen on them that will haunt them for the rest of their days.

        If I ever see the results of the pre-roundup aerial census I will post it here. I am not sure I will live long enough to see it though!


      • Have heard of GEM before as well as SWAT. It has to be so hard to pick & choose from this wonderful herd of horses – knowing that only 50 get to go back to their home. Making that decision when they KNOW these individual horses has to be heart-breaking. How? This agency pretends they are doing this group a “favor”?
        Thanks Icy as always for the information.


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