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Idaho's Wild Horse Program

Challis Herd Management Area Wild Horse Gather

VIDEO: Learn more about the Challis Wild Horse Gather
YouTube | Download .wmv | Transcript

Review Documents: Final EA | FONSI | Decision Record

The Challis Wild Horse Gather Concluded on October 31


The BLM Idaho Falls District, Challis Field Office is scheduled to begin the Challis Herd Management Area (CHMA) Wild Horse Gather on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 through October 31, 2012 (approximately). The last gathering of wild horses within the Challis HMA was conducted in 2009. 

Challis wild horse

Why Conduct the Challis Gather?
October 24
Challis Scenes
Loading from Capture Site
Mares Released
Prada Horse
Unloading from Temporary Holding

Goal of the Challis Gather

The Appropriate Management Level (AML) for wild horses within the CHMA is 185. The AML was established in the July 1999 Challis Resource Management Plan EIS following an in-depth analysis of habitat suitability and resource monitoring and population inventory data, with public involvement. The Challis RMP recognized that between gathers the population would range up to 253. Two hundred and fifty-three (253) is the maximum number of wild horses that can graze in a thriving natural ecological balance and multiple use relationship on the public lands in the area.  

The current estimated population of wild horses is 359, including wild horses residing both in and outside the CHMA. This number is based on an aerial population inventory that was conducted in mid-September as a direct count with multiple experienced observers.

BLM plans to gather 305 wild horses from the CHMA. Of the 305 horses gathered, 174 will be removed from the Challis Wild Horse Herd Management Area (CHMA) to maintain the Appropriate Management Level (AML) of 185 horses. Up to 131 of the captured wild horses would be released; of these, about 52 would be mares treated with fertility control and about 79 would be stallions or a minimal number of geldings that were released in 2009, to maintain the current 60% male/40% female sex ratio identified in the 1989 Challis Herd Management Plan and implemented in 2009.   The gather is expected to last 6 – 8 days depending on the weather.

Since the passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRHBA) of 1971, management knowledge regarding wild horse population levels has increased. By law, BLM is required to remove excess animals once a determination has been made that excess animals are present and removal is necessary. Decreasing removal numbers while reducing population growth rates and ensuring the welfare of wild horses on the range is pertinent to the BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Act program goals and consistent with findings and recommendations from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), which recently issued a BLM Task Force Report in August 2011 following their evaluation of handling procedures and animal welfare at wild horse gathers, and short and long term sorting/holding facilities. 

Any potential gather-related impacts have been analyzed in the Challis Herd Management Area Gather Environmental Assessment.

Details of the Gather

As the gather progresses, BLM will continue to provide updates on horse numbers, horse conditions, and other gather-related information on the BLM Idaho website, which will be updated daily.  A Daily Gather Report page will be available when the gather begins.   


Wild horses removed from the HMAs will be made available for adoption. Animals for which there is no adoption demand will be placed in long-term pastures where they will be humanely cared for and retain their “wild” status and protection under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. The BLM does not sell or send any horses to slaughter.

Learn More about the Adoption Program


The Challis HMA is managed by the BLM Idaho Falls District, Challis field office. The Challis Herd Management Area (or HMA) is located in the heart of Idaho at the East Fork of the Salmon River and encompasses 154,150 acres. The herd area is bordered on the north by the Salmon River, on the west by the East Fork of the Salmon River, on the south by the ridgeline between Herd Creek and Road Creek and on the east by U.S. Highway 93. 

The last wild horse gather of the CHMA occurred in July 2009, when 366 horses were captured, 141 horses were removed, 167 horses were released back into the CHMA. The 167 horses that were released joined 57 horses that were not gathered, resulting in a 2009 post-gather population of 224 horses.


Documents and Resources

two Challis horses
Learn more about the Challis Herd Management Area horses

Read the Challis Herd Management Area Gather Environmental Assessment

News release about the gather 

Daily Updates 
-CLICK HERE- to view the update page.


 Closure map
*During the gather, it may be necessary to close some areas for public safety.  Click on this map to see the possible closure areas.


Attending the Gather

Challis Gather Information Line

Please call 208-879-6251 if you would like to attend the Challis gather. This number will have a recording with information about where to meet BLM staff so you can attend the gather. The meeting time and other pertinent information will be updated daily, as gathers are fluid operations and sometimes, weather or other factors affect meeting times and locations. If you plan to attend the gather, please leave a message indicating your attendance and the number of people in your party.   


*All observers will meet at the Challis Field Office in Challis, Idaho at 6:30 a.m. If this location or meeting time changes, the information phone line will be updated with the most current information.   

Visitor Protocols

BLM recognizes and respects the right of interested members of the public and the press to observe the Challis wild horse gather. At the same time, BLM must ensure the health and safety of the public, BLM's employees and contractors, and America's wild horses. Accordingly, BLM developed these rules to maximize the opportunity for reasonable public access to the gather while ensuring that BLM's health and safety responsibilities are fulfilled. Failure to maintain safe distances from operations at the gather and temporary holding sites could result in members of the public inadvertently getting in the path of the wild horses or gather personnel, thereby placing themselves and others at risk, or causing stress and potential injury to the wild horses.
The BLM and the contractor’s helicopter pilot must comply with 14 CFR Part 91 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, which determines the minimum safe altitudes and distance people must be from the aircraft. To be in compliance with these regulations, the viewing location at the gather site and holding corrals must be approximately 500 feet from the operating location of the helicopter at all times. The viewing locations may vary depending on topography, terrain and other factors.
Observation opportunities and gather operations may be suspended if bad weather conditions create unsafe flying conditions. A Wild Horse Gather Info Line will be established by the time the gather begins and will be updated daily with the status of the gather.

Inclement weather, a gather location inaccessible to the public, or lack of gather operations on a given day (trap moving, equipment problems, etc.) will cancel the observation outing for that day. Cancellations will often not be known before the 6:30 a.m. meeting time

Because of the fluidity of gather operations, be prepared for the possibility of waiting at gather locations for hours without seeing any actual wild horse gathering.

Observers must provide their own 4-wheel drive high clearance vehicle, appropriate shoes, clothing, food and water.

Observers are prohibited from riding in government and contractor vehicles and equipment.

BLM will establish one observation area, in the immediate area of the gather and holding sites, to which individuals will be directed. This area will be placed so as to maximize the opportunity for public observation while providing for a safe and effective wild horse gather. The utilization of such observation areas is necessary due to the use and presence of heavy equipment and aircraft in the gather operation and the critical need to allow BLM personnel and contractors to fully focus on attending to the needs of the wild horses while maintaining a safe environment for all involved. In addition, observation areas will be sited so as to protect the wild horses from being spooked, startled or impacted in a manner that results in increased stress.

BLM representatives will escort visitors to and from the gather and/or temporary holding facility during designated observation days.

Individuals will be directed to the designated observation area by BLM personnel and informed of behavioral rules (such as remaining quiet and still to ensure a safe and effective gather operation).

Visitors are NOT permitted to walk around the gather site unaccompanied by a BLM representative.

Observers are prohibited from climbing/trespassing onto or in the trucks, equipment or corrals, which is the private property of the contractor.

When BLM is using a helicopter or other heavy equipment in close proximity to a designated observation area, members of the public may be asked to stay by their vehicle for some time before being directed to an observation area once the use of the helicopter or the heavy machinery is complete.

When given the signal that the helicopter is close to the gather site bringing wild horses in, visitors must sit down in areas specified by BLM representatives and must not move or talk as the horses are guided into the corral.

Visitors must direct their questions/comments to either the designated BLM representative or the BLM spokesperson on site, and not engage other BLM/contractor staff and disrupt their gather duties/responsibilities - professional and respectful behavior is expected of all.

Individuals attempting to move outside a designated observation area will be requested to move back to the designated area or to leave the site. Failure to do so may result in citation or arrest. It is important to stay within the designated observation area to safely observe the wild horse gather.

Visitors who do not cooperate and follow the rules will be escorted off the gather site by BLM law enforcement personnel, and will be prohibited from participating in any subsequent observation days.

BLM reserves the right to alter these rules based on changes in circumstances that may pose a risk to health, public safety or the safety of wild horses (such as weather, lightning, wildfire, etc.

Know before you go…

There are no facilities, including restrooms, in the HMAs.

Cell service is very limited or nonexistent in much of the HMAs. Plan to be out of range    for most of the day.

Arrive at the meeting place with a full tank of gas.

Roads are rugged and rocky. A high-clearance, four wheel drive vehicle is strongly recommended. Your tires must be in good condition and you should have a fully inflated spare and tire changing equipment.

Be prepared for weather extremes. Check the forecast the night before to ensure that you are prepared and dressed appropriately.

Parking will be limited at many gather locations. Be prepared to hike into some observation locations, Wear sturdy boots as some hikes could be arduous involving steep and rocky terrain. Hiking requirements will be explained at each morning briefing.

Binoculars and a camera with a telephoto lens are strongly recommended.

Dress in earth tones. Brightly-colored clothing can be a distraction to the horses.

For more information on the Wild Horse and Burro Program, call 866-468-7826 or email

Photos from the Gather

October 24, Spar Canyon Road
horses coming into the trap site
Horses arriving safely at the capture site. 

Beautiful gray stud horse
A beautiful gray stud horse watches us near the capture site. 

October 25, Spar Canyon Road 

Capture site October 25
A distant view of the capture site.  Beautiful country!

Setting up a different capture site
Moving the capture site to Antelope Flat.

October 26, Antelope Flat, East Spar Canyon Road

Wild Horse Gather - October 26
Horses moving north from Corral Basin WSA. 

Wild Horse Gather - October 26
Horses arriving safely at the Antelope Flat capture site.

Wild Horse Gather - October 26
Charles Morton from the BLM Challis Field Office explains how 
wild horses are prepared for the adoption program to a group
of interested public at the Challis Wild Horse Facility.

Wild Horse Gather - October 26
Desiree Fawn from Fawn Productions asks BLM's Charles 
Morton how wild horses are handled in the alley at the Challis Wild Horse Facility.

October 27, Challis Wild Horse Facility

Challis Wild Horses
Young studs from the Challis Herd Management Area settle in at the Challis Wild Horse Facility

Challis wild horses
Weanlings enjoying a warmer day at the Challis Wild Horse Facility. 

 Challis Wild Horse Gather
Wild horses safely move towards the capture site.
 Challis Wild Horse Gather
Wild horses safely move towards the capture site.
Dave Cottoor (contractor) with his dog
Dave Cattoor (contactor) with his dog Maestro
Stud released back into Challis HMA
Stud released back into Challis HMA
Stud released back into Challis HMA
Stud released back into Challis HMA
Filming of Challis Wild Horse Gather
Filming of Challis Wild Horse Gather
BLM releases mares back to the challis herd management area
BLM releases mares back to the challis herd management area
Sunrise on the last day of the Challis gather
Sunrise on the last day of the Challis gather