Lone horse grazing in a mountain pasture

BLM announces Wyoming wild horse roundup to start in August

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Kathleen Shannon

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(Wyoming News Service) The Bureau of Land Management says it will start a wild horse roundup in Wyoming's White Mountain area, but wildlife advocates say the plan exceeds the agency's authority.

The BLM aims to gather nearly 600 wild horses starting August 15, in an area northwest of Rock Springs - to prevent what it calls 'further deterioration' of the land health due to impacts from the animals.

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The group Wild American Horse Conservation says the agency used incorrect data to reach that number, improperly including foal counts.

Suzanne Roy, executive director of the group, said bad numbers are a problem for the local eco-tourism business the horses support, through a Wild Horse Scenic Loop drive.

"We're very concerned that the BLM is playing with numbers to remove more horses than they're legally allowed to," said Roy. "And if they are allowed to proceed, it will reduce the herd to such a low number, you'll never be able to view the horses."

Roundups involve gathering horses into holding pens until they're adopted.

But Roy said there are more horses being held than the adoption market can absorb, and that difference costs taxpayers about $70 million a year.

Roundups are an alternate population control method to sterilization. But Roy said her group advocates instead for fertility control.

"Basically, it's called immunocontraception," said Roy, "and it's a vaccine that creates an immune response in the animals and it prevents fertilization."

Roy said this method is also reversible, which is important in case of unexpected population die-offs.

The BLM is a multiple-use agency charged with balancing numerous interests - including those of the public, grazing rights and multiple wildlife species.

James "Micky" Fisher - lead public affairs specialist with the BLM Wyoming field office - said the agency isn't opposed to fertility treatments, but they're more difficult to implement.

"Unfortunately, with herd management areas of this size and even larger ones," said Fisher, "the sheer number of horses that we're required to gather to get down to the appropriate management level, fertility treatments and darting practices, they're just - they're insufficient."

A larger roundup is currently underway across four Herd Management Areas in central Wyoming.

Fisher said the BLM started the roundup on July 1, to gather over 2,700 animals.