Gather Scoping Notice Comments

As I mentioned in my last post, if you were to pick a time to comment about the way the Pryor Mountain Mustangs are managed now would be it. Rachel Reeves has done a great job of outlining the proposal, and The Cloud Foundation has put together a list of recommendations for people’s comments. I’m posting my comments as an example for people who read my last post. Special thanks goes to Rachel Reeves who has been responding to my numerous texts and helped polish my comments. Also to reiterate from my last post, make sure comments are succinct, well reasoned, respectful and original.

Since Encore is one of Cloud's many offspring, there's a chance she'd be removed.

Since Encore is one of Cloud’s many offspring, there’s a chance she’d be removed.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed gather. I also appreciate the attempt toward adaptive management, but worry that proposing a gather right after making the decision to increase PZP is going against those ideals. Rather than removing horses, I believe that it would be more beneficial in the long run to improve range conditions so it can support more horses and wildlife.

I encourage the Billings BLM to look into more projects that encourage the horses to use different parts of the range. The guzzlers, for example, have been a great project, and I would like to see the Administrative Pastures be opened again for the horses, as proposed in the RMP. At the very least, I would like to see more time spent assessing the effect on the decision to increase PZP to see if a removal is appropriate. I believe that with a combination of PZP, natural selection, and range improvements the horses can be managed at numbers that benefit the long term health of the horses, wildlife, and range.

However, since managing the horses primarily with natural selection is idealistic at this time, I have several recommendations if a gather does need to occur. My first recommendation is to lower the number horses that will be removed. Since the last removal was only two years ago, removing 30 horses seems extreme. The firsthand accounts that I have heard of the last adoption indicated that there was not as much demand for the horses as expected, and I worry that finding homes for the removed horses will be a problem. The Pryor Mountain mustangs have a good track record for finding homes, but if a removal does happen and 30 horses are removed, I worry that this would be the first time where all the horses do not find homes. A more appropriate approach would be to start with 10 horses, see what demand there is for them, and remove more latter if it is determined necessary. That way it will give more time to assess the new PZP plan and come up with more alternatives to removing horses.

My second recommendation is take both the dam and sire into account when deciding which horses to remove. While I realize it is impossible to accurately determine the sire, I believe there are cases where realistic hypothesis can be made. Custer, for example has had the same mares for years (as evinced by not only my firsthand experience, but The Cloud Foundation, and the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang center among others), and since they are loyal to him it can be inferred that Nodin is his only offspring on the range. Also, certain colors can be used to determine who a likely sire is. For example, if a foal is a rare color such as palomino, or buckskin, it could help indicate who the sire is. Also, markings, such as roaning are only possible with certain genetic combinations. With the prospect of a removal putting the horses below genetic viability, I believe looking at the sire’s lineage as well as the mares is necessary, even if it might require some speculation on which stallion is the sire.

Both Nomad and Navigator (Nodin) could potentially be removed. Navigator is Custer's only offspring.

Both Nomad and Navigator (Nodin) could potentially be removed. Navigator is Custer’s only offspring.

My third recommendation is regarding the tier system. They were the first step in adaptive management during the 2012 gather, and I would like to see the use continued. However, I personally believe the tier system could use refinements. Rather than use the entire list of horses aged 1-3 year old, I think the tier system should only consist of the horses that will be removed. That way, the public will be reassured that only the horses with the least amount of impact will be removed. It would also prevent unexpected removals from happening, such as Joviana and her foal in 2012. While I recognize that the decision was made for the benefit of Joviana and her foal, intervening like that goes against natural selection.

To specify, if a mare has only one offspring, there should not be basis for removal. I was disappointed during the 2012 gather when horses were removed under the bases that the mare was young and it was likely she would have a chance to foal again. Gold Rush and Damsel are examples of mares who likely died foaling, leaving Gold Rush with only one offspring still on the range, and Damsel with none.

Also, care should be taken when determining which horses should be put on the list for removal. Well represented lines should be put on priority for removal before horses that are underrepresented. Helenium, for example is the only offspring of Sandman, and one of two horses that can traced back to Rosebud. Since that is the case, her foals Outlaw and Noble should be left wild. A more appropriate line to target would be Waif and Corona since they have several foals together. While it is true some horses would be harder to find than others, but I believe with patience and planning it will show the BLM’s dedication to genetic viability. These are only a few examples, which is why it is important for careful study of lineage charts to happen as the list of horses to be removed is created.

Since Norte is now a bachelor in the Dryhead, he may be hard to find, but he would be a good candidate if horses had to be removed since Waif and Corona have had many offspring together.

Since Norte is now a bachelor in the Dryhead, he may be hard to find, but he would be a good candidate if horses had to be removed since Waif and Corona have had many offspring together.

I have a tremendous respect for the way the Billings BLM has been managing the Pryor Horses, but I worry about the proposal to remove 30 young horses, especially since it is so soon after the decision to increase PZP. However, the Billings BLM has been an example to other Field Offices, and I think there can continue to be a drive toward adaptive management.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to comment.

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