Historically, tens of thousands of wild horses have called the plains and mountains of the western United States home. They’ve thrived on public and private lands alike, and, as of March 2021, herds numbered more than 86,000. However, Tuesday saw the completion of the largest wild horse round-up to take place in Colorado. Authorities captured and contained over 500 of the animals from the state’s Sand Wash Basin. The record number points to about 55% of the herd.
Colorado’s previous record round-up took place just last month, in the West Douglas Herd Area. The August round-up gathered a total of 457 horses. According to steamboatpilot.com, the Bureau of Land Management plans to gather 783 horses, releasing only 50 back into the herd management area. The outlet detailed that wild horse advocates are currently working with BLM representatives to identify 25 stallions and 25 mares to release. Additionally, mares will be treated with birth control before heading back out onto managed lands.
“It seems like every day [the gather] has gotten a little bit more contentious,” stated Chris Maestas, a public information officer for BLM. He continued, “As for the actual gather itself [Tuesday], it has gone extremely well. I know some people won’t [appreciate] that I say it went well, but we didn’t have any deaths.”
Although, the outlet further stated that since the record round-up began September 1st, one of the wild horses died. According to BLM officials, the horse, identified by advocates as 6-year-old Brennen, required euthanization due to a preexisting condition.
Why Such Large Wild Horse Round Ups?
As much as advocates oppose it, BLM manages round-ups of wild horses throughout the year to prevent over-population. Animals, like white-tailed deer and other game, are manageable through hunting season. However, the bureau works to find humane solutions for the wild horse population.
Following the round-ups, the wild horses relocate to temporary corrals on BLM properties. Advocates then work quickly to identify horses from each round-up. Contractors arrive in efforts to load the horses on trailers before BLM ships them off somewhere else. Should advocates and contractors succeed in their efforts, they are rehomed to large open pastures. The goal is to mimic a free-roaming environment.
In regard to the latest round-up, “The contractor has trailers backed up and ready to load by 8 a.m.” the Sand Wash Advocacy Team shared on Facebook. “Loading goes fast, and we have to identify them before they are loaded, so they don’t get shipped.”
Previously, Steamboat stated individuals such as Colorado’s Governor Jared Polis, Boulder Representative Joe Neguse, and others have called for a halt to the horse gathers. However, clearly, round-ups have persisted.
The BLM states the reason for removal results from the potential not just for overpopulation, but drought as well. The group claims that the two issues combine and result in “unacceptable negative impacts” on land, livestock, and wildlife. However, wild horse advocates argue that the danger is quite the opposite as ever-growing numbers of livestock limit food sources available to the west’s wild horses.