Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mustangs of the Sandwash Basin

The Sandwash Basin is the current home to approximately 380 wild mustangs, but that will change on October 17, 2008. Located in the northwestern corner of Colorado, just above the town of Maybell, this expansive terrain has been the home to the Little Snake Herd Management Area for almost 30 years. On the 17th ,the Bureau of Land Management will begin a ten day period of gathering this herd.

As part of their management program, the BLM determines the Appropriate Management Level, i.e., acceptable number of animals, for each herd. When the herd has reproduced above that level, the BLM gathers the herd, sorts the mustangs by sex and age, inoculates the horses and sometimes, as is the case with this herd, injects the mares with PZP, a contraceptive that lasts for 2 years. Afterwards, a certain number of animals deemed appropriate for the health of the range are released back on to the Herd Management Area.

All of the 360 horses in the Sandwash Basin will be gathered; 160 mustangs will be released after vetting, and 160 will be retained and trucked to Canon City for gentling by prison inmates, and then placed in an adoption program. The problem is that there are currently over 33,000 mustangs held in adoption holding pens across the United States. Horses are not in demand as work animals as they once were. In this day and time, it is a luxury to own a horse, not a necessity.

The BLM conducts the gathers by running the mustangs into a trap with a helicopter. Unfortunately, as the horses are gathered, their family units, or “bands” as they are called, are separated. During the culling process, there is no telling which mustangs were together in a band, and so their social order as they knew it is permanently dismembered.

Such are the problems we are dealing with in managing our mustangs. There are a huge number of mustangs whose only chance for a life outside of a holding facility is through adoption. There will be an on-site adoption auction for approximately 20 of the mustangs gathered from the Sandwash Basin in Craig, Colorado after the gather is complete.

These are beautiful animals. I have spent time on the Basin photographing and writing about them. An album of photographs of the Mustangs of the Sandwash Basin is posted on this site. If you know of anyone who is looking for a horse to buy, please ask them to consider the mustangs held in the BLM Adoption Facility in Canon City, Colorado, or any other adoption facility located across the United States.

For more information on the adoption of the mustangs of the Sandwash Basin to be held on Saturday, October 25, 2008 after the gather, please call the BLM Little Snake Field Office located in Craig, Colorado: 970/826-5000.

For more information on the BLM Canon City adoption facility, please call: 719/269-8500.

For more information on the BLM program and adoption facilities located across the U.S., please go to the BLM website: www.wildhorseandburro.blm.gov