Sand Wash gather offers range relief from overpopulation of wild horses

The emergency gather of horses in the Sand Wash Basin in northwest Colorado ended Sept. 9. In all, the Bureau of Land Management removed 631 horses. Two horses with chronic injuries unrelated to the gather were euthanized according to the BLM’s protocol guiding acts of mercy, health and safety. In all, 155 stallions, 234 mares, and 67 foals were shipped off the Herd Management Area. According to the BLM, the Appropriate Management Level for the HMA is between 163 and 362 wild horses. This gather leaves HMA numbers at approximately 265.

Horses are gathered from the Sand Wash Basin amid exceptional drought conditions.

Initially, the BLM said they planned to gather approximately 783 excess wild horses, removing approximately 733 wild horses for future adoption or sale, and returning approximately 50 wild horses back onto the HMA. Approximately 25 mares were to receive fertility control before being returned to the HMA. The gather was expected to last approximately 14-25 days.

According to the BLM, this emergency gather prevents impacts to wild horses and the environment due to exceptional drought and lack of forage. The gather will also allow the BLM to proactively implement population contraception to slow population growth, maintain population size within the appropriate management level, or the number of horses the range can sustainably support in conjunction with other animals and resource uses, and to reduce the number of wild horses that need to be removed from this HMA in the long term in order to sustain a healthy population and a thriving natural ecological balance with multiple-use relationships on public lands consistent with the provisions of Section 1333(b) of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses/burros and Burros Act.

In a statement, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said “The positive announcement today that the Sand Wash Basin wild horse roundups would end early show how federal and state governments can potentially work together. While I wish this roundup hadn’t even started, I’m encouraged by the opportunity to chart a more humane course for our state’s beloved wild horses. The outpouring we heard shows how much people care for the well-being of these iconic Colorado animals, and our administration can play a key role in engaging people who can work together to ensure the health and well-being of Colorado’s wild horses for generations to come.”

Polis and First Gentleman Marlon Reis sent a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland last week asking her to pause the gather.

Last week, the Colorado Sierra Club issued their statement that “No wild horses should be removed from Sand Wash Basin until livestock have been removed and the range has recovered sufficiently to enable a scientific determination of the wild horse Appropriate Management Level.”


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