A little more than 190 horses run around the Little Bookcliffs Wild Horse Range, but the Bureau of Land Management said that’s too many hooves kicking up dirt, especially with the dry conditions on the range. They will begin a bait and trap method to try and gather 60 of the horses.
This is only the second time in nearly four decades the BLM has used this technique, which involves placing food and water strategically around the range. They will then wait until the horses feel comfortable eating from those areas, and will slowly build a fence around the area. Then, a remote controlled gate will trap the horses, and they can remove the ones they have chosen.
A local volunteer group, Friends of the Mustangs, will help the BLM with this process. One of the members said the range is in the worst condition she’s ever seen. “Due to the drought and the fact that we’re real short on feed, we want to take care of our animals, and so unfortunately we have to remove some,” said Beckie Diehl, a member of Friends of the Mustangs.
Those with the BLM said the drought is one reason they have chosen to gather 60 of the horses, out of the 192 on the land. They said their appropriate management level is 150 horses, but they claim they need even less horses, because of the dry conditions. “The drought has definitely played a part in the need to get that number below 150. So we have 190, we gather approximately 60 which is the goal, that takes it down to 130,” said Jim Dollerschell, the rangeland management specialist for the BLM. The BLM estimates this process will take one to two months.
In addition to using gathering methods to control population, the BLM also gives the horses birth control.
If they cannot gather all 60 horses using the bait and trap method, they could use a helicopter gather method to round up the remaining horses.
Some members of Friends of the Mustangs said they do not necessarily agree with gathers, but see it as the only option in this situation. “Personally I don’t really think that we’re really in favor of a gather, we would love to see these animals live their life… we want to keep them healthy, and therefore we have to do periodic gathers,” said Diehl.
The horses that are gathered will go to Canon City to be prepared for adoption. Dollerschell said the horses will then return to the Grand Valley to be adopted locally.