On July 1, 2020 the BLM began a roundup and removal of approximately 125 wild horses from Federal, State and private lands. The first several days of the operation were closed to public viewing as the trap site was located on private lands and the property owner refused permission.
The appropriate management level for this HMA is 75-125 animals and the current population of 184 horses. Horses removed from the range will be transported to the Axtell Off-Range Contract Wild Horse Facility in Axtell, Utah.
Following are daily reports from the ground.
Day 6, July 6, 2020
The roundup and removal of wild horses from The Range Creek HMA has concluded with 148 wild horses captured.
Day 5: July 5, 2020
Approximately 39 wild horses were rounded up and removed from the Range Creek HMA in Utah today (the final total was not public at the time of this posting). The BLM met its overall removal quota but continued on today and (will tomorrow) to then treat more mares and release them back to the public lands
At one point in the pen, a stallion was rearing up and trying to escape.
- At the holding pen, again there was very little food.
- The holding pens are really small and the horses fight a bit because of the close quarters. A white one was separated for being especially aggressive to the other horses.
Day 4: July 4, 2020
The helicopter contractors captured approximately 104 wild horses today (this is an estimate, final numbers are not at the time of this posting).
A foal escaped the jute:
The mare (mother) of this black foal came looking for him minutes later, and defied the helicopter. The helicopter came within 100 feet easily as you can see in the photos. The helicopter approached closer because the horse would not move, because she seemed determined to find her baby. We nicknamed her Lady Liberty and its child Baby Sam, being 4th of July -- the day we are supposed to celebrate freedom, not take it away.
The helicopter pursued her back and forth for about 10 minutes in the jute before she went to the pen. She spent time in the area where her baby had ducked under the jute (she likely smelled him). Once again, a heart breaking reality of why roundups are so devastating.
The foal was lassoed and walked back in. The wranglers used a rope on his neck and another behind to push on the tail, at some points - lifting him off the ground:
There were two white horses captured, a mare and her foal and from our photos, they looked to be albino.
Large groups of horses were brought in running at high speeds.
- At holding there was very little hay again in the pen. We were told this is because it was to be watered down and would get trampled on when they brought the new group in.
- By the time we arrived at holding, the 3 trailers of horses moved from trap to holding an hour earlier was already reloaded and gone. So from the trap (no food), to holding (no food), to the drive.... is at least several hours of no food.
- One horse in holding has a huge gash.
Day 3: July 3, 2020
AWHC's field representative was one of 3 members of the public onsite to document the roundup and removal of wild horses from the Range Creek HMA. 35 mustangs were captured today and there were no deaths or injuries reported at the time of this post.
It was a 6 am call time, and the operation ended curiously early at approximately 9:50 am, even though there did seem to be more horses in the area.
The trap site was located the same location as in the Fall except reversed; near where we used to observe became the trap, and where the old jute run was became our vantage point. This is because so many escaped the jute over and over again in the Fall capture.
- There was a moment of escape but was difficult to tell how, as it happened so fast. The helicopter was very low and you can see the wind kicking up.
- At another moment, a horse stopped and did a 180 turn and booked the other way.
- A foal running behind was shut out when its group was closed in the trap. He was then bear-hugged and physically picked up by one of the contractor's crew, and then put into the pen.
- Horses were visibly sweating.
The contractors did not allow us to immediately enter (we spent about 30 minutes before heading to holding).
By the time our field representative was permitted to enter holding, the first trailer of horses had already left. The contractors said we had to wait for the last run of the day (4 horses) to be delivered to the pens. Initially, there was no hay present for horses at the corrals. While we were waiting, the contractors started giving them the tiniest amount of hay, kicking a handful under the pen. It seemed almost like they were preventing us from entering because there was no food and they had to feed them/ an attempt to prevent us from seeing it.
- There was one agitated horse kicking in the pen, drawing blood from other horses. They left this angry horse in the very small pen for at least an hour, with frequent fights occurring.
Day 2: July 2, 2020
The helicopters flew again on private land today and 0 horses were captured. The trap site is now being moved to public lands to begin the first public day of the operation. Even though we were not permitted to view the operation, we were able to view temporary holding, which is located 42 miles up 9 Mile Canyon. There are cows everywhere in the cayon.
The trapsite on the other side of the mountains, SouthEast of the holding. The contractor, the Cattoors, did not want to navigate the switchbacks with the trailors so is bringing them down through 9 Mile Canyon paved roads. Safer for the horses and less dust.
From our field representative:
- "I can't get over how haunting it is to be in such a beautiful place, while the wild horses are losing their freedom. It is the strangest backdrop for a roundup and holding site. It's like putting a prison on a tropical island."
- "The foals looked really sad. You can see their expressions on their faces."
Day 1: July 1, 2020
The first day of the Range Creek HMA roundup and removal was yesterday. 11 wild horses lost their freedom. The operation ended early because of high winds. No public observation yesterday because they were on private land.
Because our field representative was unable to attend the roundup today, they drove to the short-term holding facility where horses removed from the range are being held.
The captured horses are being kept in an area called 9 Mile Canyon, before being shipped to the Axtell holding facility. It is a beautiful canyon with petroglyphs the entire distance, along a corridor of cliffs rising like cathedrals. A note from our field representative that it feels weird to be in such a beautiful place knowing this is a temporary prison for stressed horses losing their freedom. Cattle ranchers are abundant the entire stretch, signs let drivers know cows freely walk the roads here.