KBR Wild Horse and Burro News
Spring gathers are always controversial. Horses are often stressed after going through winter. Most mares are pregnant. Gathering and being confined adds additional stress to these animals. Accordingly, most wild horse advocacy groups urge fall gathers when the animals are in better condition to be moved and processed.
The problem in the Rawlins, WY district is that the animals on the range have grown to about twice the number established as appropriate for the area. As their numbers increase, the horses compete with native animals for food and water, and also tend to spread beyond BLM lands onto private properties. Since many of these herds migrate across private lands, good will between the BLM and private ranchers is important in order to preserve the future freedom for these horses.
There seems to be little confusion regarding the need to reduce the number of horses to appropriate levels in order to maintain a healthy range environment and keep the horses from becoming nuisances to private property owners.
At issue is not the need, but the timing of this gather and how it affects pregnant mares. BLM Rawlings indicates that they have limited resources to conduct gathers and need to conduct them when crews are available. With continual BLM budget cuts, limited resources are an increasing reality.
After researching statistics involving the gathering and holding of pregnant mares, we could not find any statistically significant trends which would suggest the horses are under greater risk when gathered correctly. BLM Rawlings' position that they want to conduct the gathers using BLM personnel is encouraging. Since they are the ones who manage these horses from maintaining their range habitats through their processing and adoption, the folks at BLM have both a professional and personal attachment to these animals.
While we'd prefer to see circumstances change so that gathers would be scheduled for the fall and still be conducted directly by BLM wranglers, we are reasonably comfortable that BLM's current plan will not cause unreasonable harm to the animals and is one of least undesirable options available with the funds and resources that are currently available.
The links below bring up official BLM documents as well as communications from the Wild Horse and Burro Freedom Alliance, and are provided to give the reader first hand information.
The 2000 gather was postponed several days due to bad weather. On Feb 28 and 29 BLM gathered 82 head. On March 1, two foals were spotted in the groups being followed. In some areas the BLM can let mares sneak off into the brush to get away from the excitement, however this location was not conducive to their "controlled escape." BLM has reassessed the horses in this area, the two original foals plus a third recently spotted are now stronger and if there are no more newborns, BLM will try setting a "pasture trap" on or about March 30, safe weather permitting.
In the meanwhile about 200 horses have left the gather area and have traveled several miles north. Of the gathered animals, the younger horses have been processed into BLM facilities while some old timers were relocated deeper into appropriate HMAs.
Exact data will be posted as soon as it can be obtained and verified, probably on or about April 1.