By providing a water source in an otherwise dry area, this newly installed guzzler will encourage the Pryor Mountain wild horses to use more of the range.
A Montana Conservation Corps crew pauses in front of a newly installed guzzler on the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range. One of ten, the guzzler will be another source of water for the Pryor Mountain horses and wildlife.
That’s what Jared Bybee’s wild horse and burro colleagues in other states have called the Pryor Mountain guzzler project. And, the label fits! A Wild Horse and Burro Specialist, Bybee says the project was “ambitious” due to the number of guzzlers installed in a small area and within a short timeframe. Crews, using nothing but hand tools, installed ten guzzlers in a four-month window last summer.
A guzzler is a water catchment system, consisting of an apron to catch the water, a storage tank and some miscellaneous plumbing. The new Herd Management Area Plan for the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range identified the installation of guzzlers to address a lack of free-flowing water in certain areas of the range. The guzzlers, strategically placed to encourage grazing use by the horses over a wider area, also provide an increase in water points for bighorn sheep and other wildlife.
The only reliable water source during the summer months is located at the top reaches of the range. From the winter through the spring, horses follow the available water, congregating at the lower reaches. As a result, the middle of the horse range often gets bypassed. “By locating the majority of the guzzlers in the middle range, we are encouraging the horses to linger longer in this area,” said Bybee.
Bybee has seen evidence that the horses and other wildlife have been drinking out of the guzzlers. It may take a few years to see if the herd becomes accustomed to using the devices long-term, mitigating the concerns with grazing in the middle range. “The wildlife benefits are more immediate, since horses have patterns,” remarked Bybee.
A semi-truck delivered the construction materials to Britton Springs (horse range headquarters) where crews prepared them for helicopter slinging to all the sites but one. Limited access, difficult terrain, and the location of some of the guzzlers in a wilderness study area necessitated the use of only hand tools. A truck and flatbed was able to deliver materials for just one of the guzzlers.
The BLM utilized their partnerships with the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, Montana Conservation Corps, the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center and the Wild Sheep Foundation to complete the project. Jerad Werning, an Iraqi War veteran from Laurel, was instrumental in leading the work crews.