Advocacy Coalition Blasts BLM for Capturing Wild Foals in Wyoming and Removing them from their Mothers


Thora,  yesterday (2/22/24), on her last day of freedom. Photo by Sandy Sisti, Wild at Heart Images


Cody, WY (February 23, 2024)... Thora, the six-month wild Wyoming filly who captured America’s heart through photographs posted on social media, has been captured and removed from the McCullough Peaks Herd Management Area (HMA), along with three other young horses: Tabasco, a 2021 colt; Trinity, a 2019 filly; and Juniper, a 2021 filly. All have been separated from their mothers; Thora was unweaned. 

An advocacy coalition working to protect Wyoming’s wild horses today harshly criticized the BLM for the captures, denouncing them as heartless and unnecessary. They cite the herd’s two percent growth rate attributable to a successful fertility control program, its aging population, and the recent deaths of several older horses as evidence that removals are not necessary to keep population numbers within acceptable limits. 

“Removing another dependent foal from the McCullough Peaks herd, and specifically from her mother, is not only cruel, but also violates the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) CAWP guidelines that state: ‘Mares/Jennies and their dependent foals must not be separated unless for safe transport,’” said Sandy Sisti, a wildlife photographer whose photographs of Thora were shared widely on social media. “In addition, the Cody BLM stated that they would only remove horses whose lineages were well represented on the range. Since Thora was the only surviving offspring of the young mare, Takoda, and the stallion, Thor, it seems the BLM is, once again, not being truthful about its motives.”

“Removing a nursing 6-month-old foal from her mother is simply cruel, irresponsible and potentially deadly to the foal. The BLM needs to stop this bait trapping now as the agency lead for the operation does not appear to have any concern for the well-being of the wild horses in his care. I demand to see proof that Thora and the other youngsters removed are in good health,” said wildlife photographer Carol Walker, who frequently photographs the McCullough Peaks Herd. 

“The BLM's failure to acknowledge the family orientation and vulnerability of young horses should awaken concern among scientists, citizens, and mustang enthusiasts alike,” said Chad and Lynn Hanson of the Wyoming Mustang Institute. “We also find the Bureau’s refusal to accept advice from groups and individuals with local knowledge in McCullough Peaks alarming.”

The American public rallied against the BLM’s bait trap removal of the beloved McCullough Peaks wild horses, generating over 200,000 emails to top BLM officials. In response to this pressure, the BLM stated that it reduced the number of horses it planned to capture. But the agency is proceeding with the removal of 35 McCullough Peaks wild horses and the agency has rejected calls to halt the operation altogether after the death of the filly earlier this month. 

“The agency’s decision to take extremely young, vulnerable horses is inhumane, and has already resulted in tragedy with the loss of the filly Kat Ballou, who suffered a fatal head injury last month after she had been separated from her mother and left unattended in a capture pen," said Suzanne Roy, Executive Director of the American Wild Horse Campaign. “It doesn’t have to be this way. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) could collaborate with the community instead of taking an adversarial role and acting against its wishes.”

"Removing a nursing foal from the wild is inhumane and, at minimum, unacceptable. The Cody BLM has repeatedly been asked to wait until after the harsh winters months and after the foaling season to conduct this roundup. Given the negligible growth rate and successful birth-control program in the McCullough Peaks, any roundup at all is completely unjustifiable. The legal loopholes the BLM uses to unnecessarily remove wild horses from their natural habitats are exhausting and archaic, and it is time for them to take a step back from a wild horse and burro program that is clearly broken.” Kimerlee Curyl, a fine art photographer who has also frequently photographed the McCullough Peaks horses. 

The American Wild Horse Campaign has sent three letters to the BLM notifying the agency that the continued capture of wild horses from McCullough Peaks violates the Cody Resource Management Plan, which prohibits disturbances in the HMA during foaling season, which began on February 1. The agency has failed to respond to these letters. (See 1/26/242/6/24, and 2/23/24 letters.)


More Photos by Sandy Sisti taken yesterday and today (2/23/24 and 2/24/24)

Thora's family

Thora with her family near the BLM bait trap 2/22/24


Thora’s family after her capture 2/23/24. Her mother Takoda is second from right.

Thora’s family after her capture 2/23/24. Her mother Takoda is second from right. 


About the American Wild Horse Campaign

The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is the nation's leading wild horse conservation  organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.