Feral vs. Wild Horse Management

Note: While the BLM can be used to describe the agency as a whole in this case it is being used to refer to the Cody Field Office as they were the ones interviewed for the article. However, my recommendations that the BLM be more open with their procedures is still applicable to any field office. Sorry for any confusion.

More information from TCF: http://www.thecloudfoundation.org/news-events-and-media/press-releases/425-no-public-comment-period-no-transparency-no-opportunity-for-horse-rescue-organizations-to-save-horses-from-a-terrible-fate

I recently read this article on the Lovell Chronicle website and have found myself frustrated by it. Not by the way it was written, personally, I thought it did a good job of covering both the BLM and TCF’s perspectives. However, I was frustrated with the way the BLM presented some of the information.

The first point I found confusing was the history of the feral herd. According to the article, domestic horses had lived there for 40 years. That leads me to my first question: why wasn’t anything done about the horses before now? Perhaps if something had been done sooner, the horses wouldn’t have been such an issue to remove now. Also just to be the devil’s advocate, keep in mind that I don’t believe that letting unwanted domestic horses loose is a reasonable response, and 40 years is small from an ecological standpoint, at what point does a horse go from feral to adapted to its environment?

Other parts of the BLM’s information I found confusing was the amount of time spent trying to contact the public about the horses. To an extent, I can understand the BLM not feeling the need to contact people about the horses before they were removed, but the article seemed unclear on how much effort the BLM made to alert people about the sale of the horses. Although, I think rather than trying to contact the original owners the BLM could have just tried to rehome the horses. Yes, it’s possible people continued to let their horses go in the same spot over the years, but even if the original horses were still alive, if the owners wanted them, they wouldn’t have let them become feral in the first place. Also, and this connects to the point where I talked about horses being adapted to their environment, domestic horses live longer because their every need is taken care of by their owners, when they are abruptly changed from that environment, they are not as likely to have the ability to survive in the wild. Also, keep in mind that I have yet to hear of a horse living beyond their late 20s in the wild.

The next concern I had with the process was the use of helicopters. The BLM seemed very certain that bait trapping would not have worked for the horses, but the article doesn’t explain how they know this. It would be one thing if bait trapping had been tried, but the article makes it unclear if bait trapping was even on the list of options. Although, I did appreciate that the article mentioned that large-scale gathers aren’t needed for McCullough Peaks.

My last concern regarding the information in the article was how much follow up there was after the sale of the horses. While it’s true the BLM is only responsible for managing wild horses, and the BLM claimed that they didn’t know that the horses went to slaughter, it might be nice to know more about the sale. Personally, I think the BLM took a bit of a risk selling to highest bidder, and I find it a bit odd that one company would want all 40 horses. On the other hand, without information about how much the sale was advertised and how many people attended it’s hard to tell what really happened.

I think what bothered me most, was how much of these points can be transferred to the way the BLM manages wild horses. Their understanding of the history of wild horses is a little misleading. Also, not only does the NEPA process seem a bit rushed (in my experience I think the public is given about a month to respond to the BLM), the BLM is not required to use the feedback the American public provides. There also seems to be a mentality that even though bait trapping is more humane and less expensive than helicopters, helicopters round-ups take less time, plus there the way things have always been done. Lastly, although I do know that there is some follow up from the BLM once a horse has been adopted, I still hear of horses that need to be rehomed. The logic doesn’t make sense to me.

Finally, I would like to reiterate that I have nothing against the article. I just feel like if the BLM would like wild horse advocates to trust them more, they might go into more details about the process of what they are doing. It might also be a good idea for them to give the American public more time to respond to the various documents that the BLM puts out. While I understand that the BLM needs to make quick and effective decisions, I have to wonder if, in this instance at least, decisions were made a little too quickly.

A mare and foal in the McCullough Peaks HMA, June 2011.

A mare and foal in the McCullough Peaks HMA, June 2011.

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12 Comments »

  1. I was wondering a lot of those same things Livi. I also think it would have been good PR for the BLM to have publicized this more so those horses could have been placed. But instead, now they have this bad PR. Very disappointing to say the least.

    I also wondered how just 40 horses could have been there for 40 years (obviously not the SAME 40 horses). It seems like (according to many BLM sources) there should have many more than that (something like 20% growth or more a year). The whole thing is a bit vague.

    I had just recently been told about this herd of horses from someone who grow up in Lovell and now lives in Missoula. They offered to take me to see them sometime. Apparently many people knew of them and the area they were in was quite remote.

    • I guess I better clarify that I am taking about the Cody office, not the Billings office, even though all the BLM does operate under the DOI. I do know that the first thing I did when I read this was to sigh a sigh of relief that this did not involve our Billings Office in anyway! HA I bet they are too! 🙂 I am happy to say that I have a great relation with the Billings Office and feel very fortunate to have it.

      • I do really like the direction Billings BLM has been going in their management of the Pryor horses. I also like the way the Cody Field Office has been managing more with PZP and bait trapping, but the case with the domestic horses seems very odd to me.

  2. Joy Said:

    I agree with a your questions and observations, Livi. But one of the things I think als needs to be made clear is the use of “the BLM”. Most writers refer to “the BLM” when there are several different BLM offices/districts in each state and I don’t feel they all have the same policies — just my interpretation.

    • Joy Said:

      *also

    • Thanks for pointing that out. I’ll add a note to make that more clear.

      • Joy Said:

        Oh, I wasn’t referring to you — everyone does it. It’s always bothered me because there seems to be such a difference between the Billings Office and the Cody and Rock Springs offices.

      • True. A lot of people seem to have a tendency to take their experience with one HMA or field office and generalize it as truth about all BLM field offices.

      • Joy Said:

        Exactly. Maybe you can be the one to start to point out those differences. Or at least identify a specific office or state when referring to them when it is possible. Every little bit helps.

      • I primarily talk to the Rock Springs FO, and even then they hardly ever call me back, so I’m not sure if I’m the right person to do a comparison. However, I will start being more specific.

  3. cssssswv Said:

    Your link seems to have broken 😦 this 1: More information from TCF: http:


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