Don’t Slaughter Montana’s Bison

article by George Wuerthner

“As most of our seasoned readers are aware, the main thrust of SFTHH is to bring to the forefront the plight of our American equines be they domestic or wild.  But while being tuned into the misconduct of out of control government agencies we cannot help but be aware of the cruelty rained down upon other wild species such as the Bison, Wolves, Bears, Cougar and even Coyotes.  What is happening to yet another 4 legged treasure, the Bison, is unexcusable and a often witnessed example of government thinking with their pocketbook and not listening to the wishes of the citizens.  Today George Wuerthner shares more information and ammunition in the fight to save the bison.  We applaud his expertise and will move forward as suggested.  Keep the faith, my friends.” ~ R.T.

“Welfare Ranchers go after yet another native wild species…”

bison-slaughterThe Louvre Museum in France houses some of the most famous art works in the world, including paintings by such famous artists as Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

What would you think if you heard the famous Louvre Museum began to throw out and burn in the streets these priceless masterpieces saying they needed to make room for the remaining art work?

How do you think the art world would respond if they suggested that a way to save the art was for the museum to build another wing to house the paintings or even give the paintings to other museums who would gladly accept them?

But instead of following such sensible advice, the French government prohibited expansion of the museum or even the transport of the world’s heritage to other museums and argued the only solution they would considered was to burn paintings? I’m certain it would be an international scandal.

But this is exactly what the Montana government is doing by the senseless slaughter of our national mammal —Yellowstone’s genetically unique and wild bison. These bison are a global heritage that the state of Montana is treating as if they are expendable and valueless asset.

Even the paintings by art masters are not as priceless as the genetically pure Yellowstone bison that are a consequence of a long line of evolution, yet Montana is treating these magnificent beasts as if they were vermin.

Worse, the justification for this butchery is flawed. One excuse is that the livestock industry is threatened by brucellosis, a disease that can cause abortions in livestock. The other major reason given for rounding up bison and slaughtering them is some assert there are too many animals for the park.

Both are questionable assertions, but even if they were valid arguments, there are viable solutions that do not require the destruction of these animals.

Fact: there is no documented transmission of brucellosis from wild bison to livestock. The only examples of wildlife transmission to cattle is the result of elk, not bison.

Fact: Yellowstone’s bison are genetically unique. Most bison herds in the United States have cattle genes mixed into their genome, but Yellowstone’s bison are one of the few genetically pure populations.

Fact: There is an abundance of public land on the Custer-Gallatin National Forest and other state and federal lands outside of Yellowstone National Park where bison could winter or even live year-round.

Fact: There are other large blocks of public land within the historic range of bison that could support herds such as Montana’s Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, Wyoming’s Red Desert, and the Vermillion Basin of Colorado.

Fact: There are numerous Indian tribes that wish to start or augment their own bison herds if only Montana would allow them to be transported.

Fact: Montana’s livestock industry will not lose its brucellosis free status simply because one or two herds are infected.

Fact: There are brucellosis vaccines that are available free of charge to ranchers that can reduce the chances of infection.

Fact: The only way that cattle can become infected with brucellosis is if they consume or lick an aborted bison fetus. This must occur before the bacteria dies or the fetus is consumed by scavengers like ravens, coyotes, and magpies.

Fact: Even if in theory bison cows could abort and transmit the disease to livestock, bison bulls and calves cannot transmit the disease, yet they make up a high percentage of the animals being slaughtered.

Fact: There is simply no scientific or even legitimate rationale for the continued slaughter of this priceless wildlife legacy. The real reason our collective patrimony is being destroyed due to the intransigence of the livestock industry.

Please call or write Governor Bullock and Montana’s Congressional delegation and ask them to work for a solution that treats Yellowstone’s wild bison as the priceless and precious global inheritance they represent.

George Wuerthner is an ecologist who has published 38 books. He divides his time between Bend, Oregon, and Livingston, Montana.

Ex-BLM Officials Indicted in Elaborate Fraud Scheme

From Illegally Rounding up Wild Horses in Wyoming to obvious corruption within their ranks the BLM just can’t shake the image being a “Criminal Agency”

"I LOVE Horses and Burros, and I am here to help!!!"

“I LOVE Horses and Burros, and I am here to help!!!”

as published in the Billings Gazette

Two former high-level federal Bureau of Land Management officials who worked in Virginia, including a deputy state director from Montana, have denied criminal charges accusing them of defrauding the government in an employment scheme.

A federal indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Great Falls accuses Larry Ray Denny, 66, of Box Elder, and John Grimson Lyon, 60, of Clifton, Va., of devising a scheme in which Denny continued to receive his $112,224 annual salary and benefits as a BLM deputy state director even though he left and never returned to his job.

Rather, Denny relocated to Montana where he contracted with the Chippewa Cree Tribe for drilling and consulting work.

Prosecutors also allege Denny claimed sick leave and regular pay while gone from his BLM job but that bank records showed he visited various golf courses and traveled to Las Vegas, Arizona and around Montana.

Denny, who was deputy state director for natural resources for the BLM’s Eastern States Office in Springfield, Va., pleaded not guilty to four counts during a Sept. 4 arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong in Great Falls.

Denny’s attorney, Penny Strong of Billings, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Lyon, who was the BLM state director for the Eastern States in Springfield, Va., pleaded not guilty to three counts during an Aug. 19 arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Holter. The indictment was filed in July and unsealed with Lyon’s appearance.

Lyon is represented by Evangelo Arvanetes, an assistant federal defender in Great Falls. Arvanetes could not be reached for comment. Holter ordered Lyon to pay $300 a month for attorney fees.

Laura Weiss, a spokeswoman and prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, could not be reached for comment.

The BLM fraud case is the latest in a series of indictments that have come from investigations by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Inspector General into fraud and corruption on Rocky Boy’s Reservation.

The investigations already have led to convictions of former state Rep. Tony Belcourt and several contractors who provided kickbacks on federal contracts.

The indictment charges Denny and Lyon with wire fraud, false claims and theft of government property. Denny also faces a count of federal false statements regarding outside income.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Weldon said in the indictment that under the scheme, Denny left his BLM post “with the knowledge and approval” of Lyon, his supervisor, to relocate to Montana to pursue other business interests as a consultant with the Chippewa Cree Tribe and “for all intents and purposes” abandoned his federal job “without relinquishing payment” as an employee.

Lyon is accused of perpetuating Denny’s fraudulent wage claims by approving and submitting false information to the BLM.

The scheme began in about June or July 2012, the indictment said, when Denny told Lyon he needed to return to Montana to “overcome health-related issues.” Denny left BLM’s Springfield office in July 2012 and never returned.

But from July 2012 until March 23, 2013, Denny was paid for 550 hours of regular work, 461 hours of sick leave, 389 hours of annual leave and 72 hours for federal holidays, the indictment said. During that time, bank account activity showed Denny went to golf courses and traveled to Las Vegas, Arizona and in and around Montana.

In a 2012 job appraisal, Lyon rated Denny’s performance as “exceptional,” which led to Denny getting a $3,262 cash award in November 2012, the indictment said.

When BLM employees asked about Denny’s status for business reasons, Lyon refused to provide any information, claiming federal laws about releasing health information prohibited him from disclosing such information, the indictment said.

Meanwhile, in January 2012, the Chippewa Cree Tribe, located on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation in north central Montana, contracted with Denny Technical Services for drilling-related services, including exploration, energy use projects, research on mineral lease agreements, development of drilling programs and communication with relevant agencies.

Denny negotiated the contract with the tribe, while his daughter, Misty Ann Denny, also known as Misty Brooks, executed the agreement, the indictment said.

For a year beginning in March 2012, Denny received about $67,243 from the tribe in addition to his BLM salary and benefits, the indictment said. Of the amount from the tribe, Denny received about $49,000 during 2012 and did not report it on a federal confidential financial disclosure report, the indictment said.

The indictment also includes forfeiture allegations seeking a money judgment of $112,302 and other property that may be traced to the alleged crimes.

If convicted, Denny and Lyon face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the wire fraud charge.

Both men were released pending trial. The case will be heard by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris of Great Falls.

Click (HERE) to comment directly at the Billings Gazette

Montana horse breeder begins sentence for animal cruelty

Source: The Missoulian

“…five horses, some malnourished, with tight plastic bands that had caused severe leg injuries. Two died and two were euthanized…”

James Leachman

James Leachman

BILLINGS – A Billings horse breeder has begun a 120-day animal-cruelty conviction sentence after the Montana Supreme Court rejected his appeal.

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito says 72-year-old James Leachman turned himself in at the county’s detention center Friday.

Leachman operated a horse breeding business before the U.S. Farm Services Administration foreclosed on the property in 2010. Leachman still kept more than 400 horses on the property after it was sold.

Investigators discovered five horses, some malnourished, with tight plastic bands that had caused severe leg injuries. Two died and two were euthanized.

The Billings Gazette reports Leachman was sentenced to five years in jail with all but 120 days suspended.

Leachman has asked a judge to allow him to serve his sentence at his home for health and other reasons.

Wild Horse Island: A real treasure in state park system

 Horses graze on a ridge of Wild Horse Island high above Flathead Lake earlier this summer. Photo Kurt Wilson/Missoulian
DAYTON – Wild Horse Island State Park on Flathead Lake is one of the real treasures of Montana’s state park system.

To make a perfect summer day, you can sail or kayak to the massive, mostly undeveloped island and swim, fish, hike or watch wildlife to your heart’s content. The island is three miles long, but is very hilly and the landscape alternates between grassland and forest.

At 2,164 acres, Wild Horse Island is the largest freshwater lake island west of Minnesota. Salish and Kootenai Indians are thought to have used the island to keep their horses from being stolen by other tribes. Today, a population of about five wild horses, a herd of mule deer and about 100 bighorn sheep inhabit the island.

Since it was sold to the state in 1978, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has managed the animals to keep the population of horses and sheep at a level the habitat will support. The island is managed as a primitive area and overnight camping, firepits and pets are not allowed. Groups of 15 or more must get a permit, and a state-tribal fishing license is required from the Flathead Indian Reservation.

The state has six sites it recommends for public boat landings: Skeeko Bay, Eagle Cove, Rocky Bar, Driftwood Point, Osprey Cove and East Shores. All the docks are privately owned. There are 52 private, circle-shaped lots on the island. There is a public, unisex solar-powered composting toilet at Skeeko Bay.

Wild Horse Island map

The waves on Flathead Lake can turn surprisingly big in open water, and weather can change unexpectedly. Almost every year, boaters without life vests die on the lake. Anyone traveling to the island should have life jackets and, if possible, a partner.

There’s just one trail on the island that connects Skeeko Bay to an old homestead. An old stone fireplace is all that is left of the three-story Hiawatha Hotel that was torn down on the east side of the island in the 1990s. It’s also a fantastic trip in the spring and summer when there aren’t as many people around.

Location: The island – at 47.84715 latitude, -114.23458 longitude – is located near Big Arm State Park on the western shore of Flathead Lake. It is most easily accessible by boat from any public dock along U.S. Highway 93. Dayton is a good place to launch.

Distance/duration: Depending on wind conditions and your endurance, a kayak trip to the island from Dayton can take 45 minutes, sometimes much longer.

Difficulty: Getting to the island is easy, as long as you wear a life jacket and are aware of any dangerous weather conditions that might arise. Always check the forecast, and be sure to pack out any garbage you bring. For more information, visit

Ranch Owner Relieved Over Failure of Montana Wild Horses Bill; Plan Dies in State Senate Committee

Source: By Francis Davis of The Montana Standard

“They’re all ages, all sizes, all colors (ALL GELDED). We’re excited to have them here.”

The ranch owner who manages the only long-term holding facility for wild horses in Montana breathed a sigh a relief when a Senate bill that would have required the state to develop a management plan for the horses died in committee on Tuesday.

“We’re very relieved,” Karen Rice, the owner, along with her husband, Greg Rice, of the Spanish Q Ranch, told The Montana Standard on Wednesday. “It would have added another bureaucratic process that isn’t necessary. There’s already a management plan in place. There was no reason to reinvent the wheel.”

Along with a management plan, Senate Bill 402 would have required the Montana Department of Livestock to charge a fee of $100 on each imported horse or burro.

There are 700 horses on the Spanish Q, but the original contract between the BLM and the Rices was for a total of 1,150 horses.

A retroactive clause was stripped from the bill, but the additional 450 horses would have cost the Rices an extra $45,000.

A BLM spokesman said it will be at least a year before any more horses are shipped to the 15,456-acre Spanish Q.

“We won’t be sending anymore until at least next fall (of 2014) ,” said Lili Thomas, a BLM wild horse and burro specialist. “We want to take a conservative approach and see how this works out.”

Another reason the BLM has limited the shipment of horses to 700 is that Paulette Mitchell, who leases the Rices about 3,000 acres of land, has filed a lawsuit to keep the horses off of that part of the Spanish Q.

The trial date for the lawsuit has been set for May 14, 2014.

Currently, the horses are being held only on land owned by the Rices, but the rancher said she hopes to get approval from the state to allow the wild horses onto the approximate 1,200 acres of land the Spanish Q leases from the state.

“We’ve leased land from the state for 44 years,” she said. “And we’ve had cattle on it before.”

Rice said she has been disappointed by the reaction of some of her neighbors, four of whom have filed appeals to keep the horses off the Spanish Q, but Rice has also received support from other neighbors who border her ranch.

That support includes Claudette and Creyton Hughes, who own 7L Bar Ranch and have been neighbors with the Rices since 1969, according to a notarized letter sent to the Interior Board of Land Appeals in support of the Rices.

“We have a lot of support that isn’t talked about,” she said. “(The bill) was an attempt to control what we do and it would have taken away from the life of the Montana rancher.”

Rice also said her family intends to take good care of the horses and the land, and that she sees the wild horses as a way for her to keep the ranch in the family. The Rices are receiving $1.36 per day per head. They’ve owned the ranch for over 40 years, she said.

“We take good care of our land and always have,” Rice said. “The horses do graze a little bit different than cattle, but we’ve been told that the horses have a better effect on the riparian life because they will drink and move on, unlike cattle.”

Currently, the horses are in a holding pasture as they acclimate to one another.

“They’re so exciting to watch,” Rice said. “They’re all ages, all sizes, all colors. We’re excited to have them here.”

Click (HERE) to visit the Standard and to Comment

Montana Wild Horse Bill Fails in Committee

Source: By Francis Davis of The Montana Standard

Wild Horses take heat even after capture and gelding…
Yet ANOTHER two bit state politician that knows NOTHING about Wild Horse and Burro issues

Yet ANOTHER two-bit state politician that knows NOTHING about Wild Horse and Burro issues

A bill that would have required the state to develop a management plan for wild horses imported into Montana was voted down in committee Tuesday.

Senate Bill 402, sponsored by Sen. Kendall Van Dyk, D-Billings, was defeated 6-5 by the agriculture, livestock, and irrigation committee.

Besides a management plan, the Montana Department of Livestock would also have charged a fee of $100 on each imported horse or burro.

Van Dyk had worked with two Republicans in crafting the bill, Sen. Taylor Brown, of Huntley, and Sen. Eric Moore of Miles City.

“We talked about how this might happen,” Van Dyk told The Montana Standard on Tuesday evening after the vote. “We introduced this at a late date, but we elevated the issue and it’s far from over. Hopefully, we can pick it up at the next session. These things take time.”

The Bureau of Land Management completed the transfer of 700 wild horses last month to the Spanish Q Ranch outside of Ennis. The Spanish Q is the first long-term holding facility for wild horses in Montana, but it was delayed for a number of years in no small part because of resistance of neighboring ranch owners about the horses’ effect on irrigation, livestock, and wild life.

The bill attempted to address some of those concerns, but it was up against a tight timeline. If the bill had passed the Senate committee, it would have had to pass through the full Senate and make it to the House by Friday. As day 71 of the current legislative session, Friday is the deadline for a revenue bill to be presented at both the Senate and the House.

Some committee members expressed concern about the $100 import fee, even though the bill was stripped of a retroactive clause that would have covered the 700 horses already at the Spanish Q.

Click (HERE) to visit the Standard and to Comment

Captured Wild Horses Suffer Political Verbal Abuse in Montana

Source: By FRANCIS DAVIS Montana Standard

State Politicians out of touch with Wild Equine Ecological Facts

BUTTE — In response to the Bureau of Land Management’s recent relocation of 700 wild horses to a ranch outside of Ennis, a bill regulating the movement of wild horses is making its way through the Montana Senate and might reach the House by next week.

Senate Bill 402, sponsored by Sen. Kendall Van Dyk, D-Billings, would require the Montana Department of Livestock to develop a management plan for any wild horses imported into the state. The department would also charge a permit fee of at least $100 on each imported horse or burro.

In crafting the bill, Van Dyk worked with two Republicans, Sen. Taylor Brown of Huntley and Sen. Eric Moore of Miles City. Van Dyk said the BLM is using Montana as way to rid itself of problem horses, so the state must develop a plan before any more of the animals are moved here.

“We scrambled to get a bill together,” Van Dyk told the Montana Standard. “I think the state needs to have some regulatory capacity. The BLM has a major problem on its hand and we can’t let them pawn their problem off on us. I don’t want Montana to start looking like Nevada or Utah.”

The BLM moved the horses to Montana from holding facilities in Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Oklahoma.

In a news release, Van Dyk said the bill is also necessary because of the potential harm the horses may cause the environment, wildlife, and neighboring ranch owners.

“These really aren’t wild horses,” Van Dyk said. “They’re feral horses, and they are a serious problem for the BLM. Using taxpayer dollars to subsidize landowners to board these horses is not the answer. This can lead to serious problems to wildlife, watersheds, and neighboring owners. Those landowners have been ignored and deserve to be hard.”

The bill is up against a tight timeline. It was heard before the agriculture, livestock, and irrigation committee on Tuesday, and it’s scheduled for a committee vote after the Easter Break on April 2. Van Dyk said he expects the bill to go before the entire Senate sometime shortly after that.

He hopes the bill moves into the House by April 5, which as day 71 of the current legislative session is the deadline for a revenue bill to be presented at both the Senate and the House.

The BLM began moving wild horses to the Spanish Q Ranch in late February. And the agency completed the transfer of the 700 wild horses within the last few days. The Spanish Q is the first long-term holding facility in Montana. It was first proposed in 2009, but was delayed for a number of years in no small part because of the resistance of neighbors to the move.

In December 2012, neighbors on all four sides of the Spanish Q filed appeals to stop the horse transfer, but the BLM went ahead with the move before those appeals were heard because a required 45-day waiting period had elapsed. The appeals might not be ruled upon by the Interior Board of Land Appeals for at least a year.

“What I’m trying to do here is give the neighbors a seat at the table,” Van Dyk said. “And I’m not just worried about one ranch in southwest Montana. I’m worried about what’s next.”…(CONTINUED)

Click (HERE) to read the story in it’s entirety and to COMMENT at the Billings Gazette

Good News for Montana’s Bison

Update from Western Watersheds Project

A Victory that all Wild Animal Advocates can Cheer

An open letter from Summer Nelson, Montana Director;

Yellowstone Bison © Ken Cole

Yellowstone Bison © Ken Cole


Bison gained ground in Montana yesterday when a state district court judge ruled in favor of allowing them room to roam out of Yellowstone National Park during winter months.

Western Watersheds Project and Buffalo Field Campaign intervened in a lawsuit on behalf of the State of Montana to defend wild bison against a litany of claims raised by the Park County Stockgrowers’ Association, the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, and Park County. The livestock interests sued state agencies involved in bison management after the state allowed bison migration into the Gardiner Basin north of Yellowstone National Park in spring of 2011.  Western Watersheds Project and other bison advocates welcomed the change as an important step in bison recovery because the bison naturally attempt to access the habitat in the Gardiner Basin, and scientists have indicated it is critical to the population’s long-term survival.

I was fortunate enough to witness the bison re-inhabiting the Gardiner Basin when I visited that spring to attend a public meeting about the proposed expansion area. It was such a treat to revel in the presence of the native bison without having to also witness the animals being harassed by agents with horses, helicopters, ATVs or snowmobiles!

Shortly after the state announced it would agree to allow bison to regularly migrate to and inhabit the Gardiner Basin, the livestock interests filed lawsuits challenging Montana’s authority to allow bison to exist in the state. Their claims ran the gamut of legal imagination, and each and every one was struck down in yesterday’s ruling. The court declared the state had acted within its authority to allow bison to migrate to their native habitat, and that living with wildlife like bison is simply part of living in a state like Montana.

Western Watersheds Project and Buffalo Field Campaign were jointly represented by Western Watersheds Project attorneys, including myself, and private attorney (and long-time bison supporter) Ted Fellman. Together, we were able to present the testimony of two Gardiner Basin residents who value and support the presence of wild bison in the place they call home.  Their voices were an important antidote to the complaints of the vocal minority that was and is the Stockgrowers’ Association and Montana Farm Bureau. Conservation groups Bear Creek Council, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and Natural Resources Defense Council were also intervenors and were represented by Earthjustice, providing a strong show of support for the state’s position.

Thanks to everyone who helped America’s wild bison have more room to roam in winter!





Summer Nelson
Montana Director

Longevity of Oldest Resident of Montana’s Wild Horse Island Surprising

By Vince Devlin of the Missoulian

“He’s got to be 30-plus…”
The last survivor of the 1992 transplant of wild horses to Wild Horse Island on Flathead Lake keeps surprising biologists by his longevity. “I don’t know what the old guy’s secret is,” says Jerry Sawyer, manager of the island for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, “but whatever he’s eating, I wish I could get some.”

The last survivor of the 1992 transplant of wild horses to Wild Horse Island on Flathead Lake keeps surprising biologists by his longevity. “I don’t know what the old guy’s secret is,” says Jerry Sawyer, manager of the island for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, “but whatever he’s eating, I wish I could get some.”

POLSON — This particular year-end update has become joyfully obligatory, and Jerry Sawyer seems to get a kick out of the annual phone call from the Missoulian.

His reports of the seemingly imminent demise of the oldest wild horse on Wild Horse Island again appear, Sawyer allows, to have been greatly exaggerated.

How the horse does it, he has no idea.

“He’s still going,” says Sawyer, who manages the seven state parks on Flathead Lake for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “One of our biologists was just doing a (bighorn) sheep count on the island, and he saw all the horses and said they were looking good. I don’t know what the old guy’s secret is, but whatever he’s eating, I wish I could get some.”

Sawyer had been predicting the old horse would likely not survive another winter for four or five winters now, and with good reason.

The last survivor of a 1992 transplant of wild horses onto the island has several times appeared to be days from a natural death’s door. Four years ago Sawyer said the ancient gelding ‘s ribs were clearly visible beneath his hide even though the island was lush with vegetation at the time.

It looked like the old boy’s internal organs were shutting down, Sawyer said back then.

There didn’t seem to be any way the old horse could ever survive another winter, and when he’d emerge intact — if little more than skin and bones — each successive spring, he sometimes looked like he might not even make it through one more summer.

He’s had difficulty shedding his winter coat every year for the past few, giving him an even more decrepit appearance. There has been an occasion or two over the past four to five years Sawyer has wondered aloud if the end might be just days away.

“Last spring, he looked more like a musk ox than a horse,” Sawyer says. “His metabolism isn’t what it needs to be, which is why he has trouble shedding his winter coat.”

Estimates for the lifespan of a wild horse go as low as 12 to 14 years, although others put it as high as 20 to 25.

The oldest wild horse on Wild Horse is at least 30.

“He’s got to be 30-plus,” Sawyer says. “That’s just ancient for a wild horse — like a human who lives over 100.”

The 2,164-acre island, 99 percent of which is a primitive state park, is managed under a plan that calls for up to five wild horses to call it home.

The horses, who share Wild Horse with hundreds of mule deer and bighorn sheep, are present solely to honor the island’s name.

In fact, the old horse was the only one left standing on Wild Horse in 2009 when FWP began restocking. So concerned was the agency that the last wild horse would die off over that winter and leave the island horse-less, it brought in a wild mustang on Christmas Eve of that year.

The following June four wild black mares — the first females ever transplanted to the island by FWP — were ferried over and released.

That meant when the sole survivor of the 1992 transplant did die of old age, Wild Horse Island State Park would have the five horses called for in the management plan.

But we all know what happens to the best-laid plans.

The island’s most senior of equine citizens just keeps on kicking, for one thing.

And no one knew that, when the four mares were released in 2010, one of them, as Sawyer explained, had been

“fiddling around” prior to the transplant.

She was already pregnant when she arrived on Wild Horse. No one but the horses witnessed the birth of the foal, a pretty little Paint. So one day, as Sawyer put it back then, the population of wild horses on Wild Horse was six, and the next time anyone counted it was, in his words, “6½.”

Is it possible the influx of new blood on the island has helped keep its oldest resident alive just by providing companionship?

“I’m not a horse psychologist,” Sawyer says. “I’d like to say so. It’s one of those feel-good things. If you start putting human attributes on animals, though, there are going to be some biologists who shudder.”

Authorities speculate a mountain lion may have taken up residence on the island in recent months and is hunting deer and sheep, Sawyer says. While such a predator might also be tempted go after one lone sickly horse, it won’t waste its time chasing a mostly healthy herd of seven, so in that respect, all the relatively recent arrivals have probably helped the old horse’s longevity, according to Sawyer.

“But I have to say I personally believe it’s helped” in more ways than that, Sawyer admits. “I don’t know how a horse’s brain operates, but they are social animals.”

And he’s done predicting the old horse’s days are numbered.

When asked if he thinks the wild horse population on Wild Horse Island will still be seven when we check again next year, Sawyer now says, “You know, if we have another mild winter, he just might make it.”

Click (HERE) to visit the Montana Standard and to Comment


By Katie Chen of Billings’

Shades of Jason Meduna; Horse Abuser James Leachman Faces the Facts

BILLINGS – The first day of testimony has ended for a Billings-area rancher accused of abusing his horses.

James Leachman is charged with multiple counts of animal abuse for five different horses he owned. On Tuesday, Prosecutors displayed images of horses with leg bands that cut into their skin.

Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Lt. Kent O’Donnell was the lead investigator of the case that began nearly two years ago. He visited the ranch several times and saw horses with out-turned hooves and ingrown leg bands.

The prosecution then asked O’Donnell to describe what he encountered when he looked at the health of the horses Leachman owned.

“You can see it’s not putting any weight on that leg it’s just dragging the hoof. You can start to see, if you get a little closer you can see the leg band you can’t quite make it out there but you can make out the white, this white area right here and that’s actually pus,” Lt. O’Donnell said.

Public defender Clark Mathews questioned the lieutenant about his investigations. He revealed O’Donnell didn’t look for a brand on one dead horse found in a nearby pasture. But O’Donnell said that was because coyotes had already destroyed much of the horse’s remains.

If convicted on all counts, Leachman could spend up to 16 years in prison. The trial is expected to last into next week.

Click (HERE) to visit Billings Channel 8 and to Comment