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Wild Horse & Burro Gathers

There are 22 Herd Management Areas (HMAs) in California covering 7.1 million acres of public land, with an additional 2.3 million acres of non-BLM land. 

In the wild, horse herd sizes increase on an average of 20% a year.  At this rate of increase, excess horses need to be removed every two or three years. 

When the Appropriate Management Level (AML) in a Herd management Area is exceeded, then a gather plan is developed for the removal of the excess animals.  Once the plan has been approved, the trap site is set up and the gather operation begins.  

Most California gathers take place during the fall, thus allowing the spring foals to be large enough to be moved to the trap site with their herd.


Complete roundup statistics, including veterinary reports, are available online.

A burro stands in a mountain region near a large bush.

A wild horse with a long blond mane.

Chemehuevi Indian Reservation Burro Gather

Piute Mountains Burro Gather

Chocolate-Mule Burro Roundup (6/15/12)

Twin Peaks (9/19/10)

High Rock (11/12/11)

Once the trap location is selected the trap is constructed.  A trap consists of a large catch pen with several connected holding corrals, jute covered wings and a loading chute.  The wings form an alley way used to guide the horses into the trap.  Trap locations are changed during the gather to reduce the distance that the animals must travel. 

Photo trap site

A typical gather day begins before sunrise for the wranglers. The drive to the gather site may be one to two hours away.  The wranglers must be at the trap site and ready as soon as the helicopter has located a group of horses.
 A helicopter is used to locate the horses and move then to the trap location. Just after sunrise the helicopter lifts off in search of the animals to be gathered.  As the pilot moves the horses closer to the trap he contacts the wranglers via radio to alert them as to when the horses will be at their location.

Photo helicopter moving horses 

Once the animals are close enough to the trap, two prada horses are released by wranglers hiding in the under brush.  The prada horses are used to lead the newly gathered horses into the awaiting trap.  Several dry runs are made with the prada horses at each new trap location.   The prada horses being used were once wild also. 
   Photo of Prada Horses

Photo of wrangler with Prada horse

The prada horses have been trained to run to the trap with the newly collected horses following.  This method of horse gathering has proven to be much less stressful on the newly gathered horses.  Thus allowing the gather to be conducted smoothly and at a reduced cost.  A large group of horses will follow the prada horses into the collection pen all at one time.

  Photo of Prada horses leading gather
The wranglers discuss their next step prior to the animals coming into view.  They will assist the prada horses by moving from behind the brush and pushing the animals into the holding corral.
  Photo of wranglers waiting for horses
Once in the corral the horses are sorted and moved a short distance to a temporary holding location. They are then allowed to rest prior to be placed on trucks and shipped to the nearest holding facility.  Within a few weeks of arriving at the holding facility they will receive their freezebrand, shots, blood test and a veterinarian check up.  Following their booster shots the horses will be available for adoption.

Photo of horse loading at gather