Removal Reflections

On 8-28-15 it was listed on gather reports that this year’s removal in the Pryors is complete. Which makes part of me relieved, even as I realize that we’re going down the same road next year. For the most part, the Billings BLM did a good job this year, but there is always room for improvement. Which is why I plan to send a respectful email to the Billings BLM giving them my thoughts for next year. I encourage anyone who has been following the removal to do the same, which is why I’m putting together some of the points I plan to make if anyone needs help generating ideas.

Mckeanie was one of the horses removed this year.

Mckeanie was one of the horses removed this year.

The first thing I would recommend doing is thanking them for their time. This may seem counter intuitive since no one wants to see horses removed, but the Billings BLM does work hard to make sure the horses’ experience is as stress free as possible. Although I don’t agree with all the points of any decision, I also can acknowledge that the Billings BLM is making steps toward adaptive management.

The Billings BLM has already made steps to compromise, so there’s things I would like to recommend. My first concern is full siblings were removed this year, leaving some lines with no representation. There’s been some mares that have most of their offspring removed with the assumption that she will have another foal later. Washakie, for example might be pregnant this year, but neither she nor Baja are getting any younger. That’s a lot of pressure on an unborn foal’s shoulders about a hunch that it will make it to reproductive age.

Oregon was also removed.

Oregon was also removed.

My second concern is removing horses with “preexisting conditions.” For the purposes of this blog, I’m lumping the category together, but I’ll give two examples. Meriweather was removed due to a hernia despite being on tier three. Mercuria and her filly got removed for “poor body condition.” Unless it is found that the removal will have the least impact on genetics I feel that removing horses for those reasons goes against natural selection. Horses in the Pryors have lived to adult hood with hernias, and if Mercuria’s condition was so dire, then they could have kept her in holding long enough to improve, and release her later.

The fact that those two were removed goes against the tier system. On paper it looks really good, but it only works as well as its execution. Meriweather was on tier three, but after she was removed it the excuse that it was a typo was used. If the Billings BLM is to manage the horses so each bloodline has equal representation, then I would like to see tier 3 horses be completely eliminated from the list. To ensure that all bloodlines get representation, then I would like for only tier one horses get removed.

Here's another photo of Oregon to show how primitive she is.

Here’s another photo of Oregon to show how primitive she is.

My last recommendation is for everyone to be patient. Bait trapping takes longer than helicopters, but is also more humane. It’s true that the Billings BLM works hard to ensure the experience is stress free for the horses, there seems to be a point when they ignore the tier system and just remove which horse comes into the trap. This seems especially true of the Dryhead, which is a shame since their genetics are arguably more fragile than the horses on the mountain top. While I understand there are fewer resources in the Dryhead, there are also fewer horses. I would both advocates and the BLM be patient and wait for horses that will have the least impact on genetics get removed. If horses are hard to find one year, then there’s always the option to stop the removal before reaching the high-end of the quota.

These are my main points, but I am sure there are more.  At the end of the email, it couldn’t hurt to thank them for their time, and reiterate your appreciation that they are working toward adaptive management. The main thing  is to show that we are respectful and well researched. Even if they don’t follow all the recommendations, if we show have the interest of the horses at heart, they may be more willing to compromise in the future.

One of the many views in the Dryhead.

One of the many views in the Dryhead.



  1. Abbie Said:

    Great post! I think that all of the points you made are important. Particularly about tier 3 horses being “risk-free,” preserving bloodlines (ESPECIALLY not relying on the theory that a mare will foal again), the DryHead and patience so that the best options for removal are taken. I am also going to personally request that they consider more than just numbers when it comes to removing a mare’s foal. Even though Washakie has grown offspring on the range, none of these 3 horses has had major luck with keeping foals (or having foals) on the range. Washakie should also get a chance to keep more offspring as she is a powerhouse mare: if natural selection was governing the herd then she likely would have more representation on the range. Of course, it is essential that we work to maintain rare bloodlines, but it seems a little unfair to penalize a successful mare who, naturally, would get to leave a great legacy. I am also going to ask for a clarification in the EA as it states the next removal will focus on tier 1 horses not removed this year, and horses born outside of a mare’s PZP free window. It also mentions that the removal will focus on yearlings and two year olds next year (which would be fantastic). I would like to know how high a risk the 2013 horses will be, particularly as roughly 47% of the 2012 foal crop that made it to adulthood is no longer on the range.

    • Thanks! You make some great points too!

      • Abbie Said:

        🙂 with all of us putting our heads together I’m hopeful we can make next year’s removal even better thought out than this year’s.

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