U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
California

News.bytes News.bytes Extra, issue 232

Wild horse and burro volunteers

When Bureau of Land Management cowboys rolled in to Oakdale hauling wild horses and burros for a public adoption event this month, a team of BLM volunteers was close behind, ready to assist wherever needed.

The scene is the same at adoption events across California, where Wild Horse and Burro Program volunteers are working in areas ranging from adoption promotion to adopter mentoring.

Below, volunteer George Kilian shows an adopted mustang, "Little Jo," at the Oakdale adoption event. Meanwhile, his wife, Fritzie, lunges "Espiritu," the offspring of an adopted wild horse and a domestic Andalusian horse. In the second photo, Fritzie takes time to discuss the adoption program with visitors to the Oakdale event.
Volunteer George Kilian shows an adopted mustang, "Little Jo"

Volunteers have become a big part of the BLM-California Wild Horse and Burro Program, and their work is becoming more focused and organized as a pilot volunteer program moves well into its second year.

"We launched this pilot project to bring closer coordination and more organization to the volunteer program," said Tom Pogacnik, manager of the Wild Horse and Burro Program for the BLM in California. "All of our offices have used wild horse and burro program volunteers in the past. The pilot program is improving the program by providing standardized project descriptions and a centralized database matching volunteer skills to BLM needs."

Below, volunteer Shelley Henshaw of Merced chats with Oakdale adoption visitors about the rules and regulations on adopting wild horses and burros.
volunteer Shelley Henshaw of Merced chats with Oakdale adoption visitors about the rules and regulations on adopting wild horses and burros

Statistics are showing the pilot program is paying off, Pogacnik said. BLM California now boasts a roster of 260 volunteers, up from about 50 prior to the pilot. Last year, volunteer assistance enabled the BLM-California program to complete more than 2,000 compliance checks on adopted animals, about twice the earlier California state record. Additionally, volunteers last year gentled about 80 horses for the BLM adoption program, and most found new homes at adoption events across the state.

Below, volunteering is a family affair for the Miller family of Wheatland. Brian Miller, right, keeps an eye on his daughter, Nataly, as he visits with adopters in Oakdale. Meanwhile, daughter Reonna, also a BLM volunteer, shows "Chocolate," a horse gentled by her parents for presentation at the adoption event. Chocolate went home with an adoptive family.

Pilot Program Coordinator Janet Neal says the pilot program has also provided ways for volunteers to help the BLM program in ways they find most enjoyable. Some, like members of the California BLM Adopters Assistance (CABAA), help horse and burro adopters overcome gentling and training obstacles. Some volunteers work in the weeks prior to adoptions distributing posters, flyers and other products to promote events. Still others bring adopted animals to adoption events, showing the successes of gentle training methods.

While showing "Espiritu," the offspring of an adopted wild horse and a domestic Andalusian horse, George's wife Fritzie takes time to discuss the adoption program with visitors to the Oakdale event.

As a result of the program, some volunteers have even formed their own groups. One, calling itself "Wild Spirits of the West," has been participating in BLM adoption events across the state.

Below, Tim Gore, right, chats with a visitor to the Wild Sprits of the West table at the Oakdale adoption event.
Tim Gore chats with a visitor to the Wild Sprits of the West table at the Oakdale adoption event

"We have always been fortunate in the Wild Horse and Burro Program to have enthusiastic people willing to volunteer," Pogacnik said. "In the first year of our pilot we made great strides in organizing them. Now, we’re in our second year, and showing new ways to satisfy volunteers’ eagerness to help while improving our service to our adopters."

Tom Pogacnik and friend:
Tom Pogacnik with a mustang

- May, 2006


BLM California News.bytes, issue 232