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Wild Horse Program Achieves Goals

    by Angelina Pryich

Wild horses run ahead of a helicopter.
Wild horses run ahead of a helicopter during a gather on 
White Mountain. Courtesy of 
Dell Barnes of Lyman, Wyoming.
A helicopter herds wild horses.
A helicopter herds wild horses 
into a trap during a gather on White Mountain. Courtesy of 
Dell Barnes of Lyman, Wyoming.
Two young wild horses.
Two young wild horses from the Rock Springs Corrals in summer 2007. (These two are not 
available for adoption).

ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. - The BLM Rock Springs wild horse program achieved its population management objectives in 2007 by conducting gathers in all the wild horse herd management areas it manages. The sagebrush-covered high desert surrounding Rock Springs is home to approximately 1100 wild horses.  

The BLM Rock Springs Field Office manages five separate wild horse Herd Management Areas (HMAs): Divide Basin, White Mountain, Little Colorado, Salt Wells Creek and Adobe Town. Each HMA has an established population level, the Appropriate Management Level (AML). The AML is the number of wild horses the habitat can support given all the other uses within the HMA.

Wild horses need wide open spaces to move freely among wildlife, livestock and new developments. Wild horses thrive in Wyoming because they are highly adaptive and have no natural predators. It is not uncommon for a wild horse population to double in three to four years. This exponential population growth could be detrimental to all animals competing for similar resources if it is not managed. Population objectives (AMLs) for each wild horse herd area have been established to ensure that the wild horses and their habitat will remain healthy. 

In January 2007, 918 wild horses were gathered at the Salt Wells and Adobe Town HMAs. The winter gather was cut short in the Adobe Town HMA because of harsh weather conditions. In March and April of 2007, BLM conducted aerial surveys of each HMA. The census confirmed that the populations in the Divide Basin, Little Colorado and White Mountain HMAs were higher than their designated AMLs. During the census of the Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek HMAs, BLM found that wild horses were roaming outside of the Adobe Town HMA in an area administered by the BLM Rawlins Field Office. After the census, gathers were scheduled to reduce the high wild horse populations. In August, 525 wild horses were gathered from the Divide Basin HMA and 171 from outside of the Adobe Town HMA.

The November 2007 gathers scheduled for the White Mountain and Little Colorado HMAs were temporarily postponed until July 2008 because of budget constraints. However, with assistance from Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, BLM eventually received funding to complete the gather as planned in November. BLM gathered 695 wild horses in the White Mountain HMA and 161 in the Little Colorado HMA. These gathers brought the population in each area to the desired AML: Salt Wells Creek-251, Divide Basin-415, White Mountain-215, Little Colorado-69, and Adobe Town-600.

In an effort to slow the inevitable repopulation of wild horses, a fertility control shot was administered to a group of mares which were released into the Salt Wells Creek, White Mountain and Little Colorado HMAs.

BLM Rock Springs Field Office successfully achieved AML on all HMAs, gathering 2,470 horses. Because of these successful gathers, there are now plenty of wild horses available for adoption at the BLM Rock Springs Corrals.

The BLM will offer reduced fees through March 15, 2008. The adoption fees will be reduced to $25 for each mare and $75 for one weanling or $50 each for two or more weanlings.

Last updated: 06-05-2008