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Wild horses remain a hot topic in Colorado after recent roundup of West Douglas herd

The Bureau of Land Management uses a helicopter to drive horses during a planned gather in early September. The BLM said they have a "comprehensive animal protocol" to guide these operations that's informed by livestock veterinarians.
Scott Wilson
The Bureau of Land Management uses a helicopter to drive horses during a planned gather in early September. The BLM said they have a "comprehensive animal welfare protocol" to guide these operations that's informed by livestock veterinarians. Wild horse advocates say it's "unnecessary and inhumane."

The Bureau of Land Management captured more than 100 wild horses in northwest Colorado this month. The entire West Douglas herd was removed and transported to a holding facility in Cañon City.

These wild horse roundups, or "gathers", have become controversial over the years. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis asked the BLM to stop them in 2022. But the federal agency has continued to manage mustang populations around the state this way.

According to the BLM, the West Douglas area near Meeker didn't have enough food or water to support any population.

"We have to find a balance between where the horses are, how many are there, and how to maintain a healthy ecosystem," said the BLM's Steven Hall.

Hall said the area was identified decades ago as not suitable for wild horse management. There's not much infrastructure there such as fences or corrals.

"In that kind of country, the safest way to gather horses, both for the people doing the gathering and the horses themselves is typically going to be a helicopter gather," said Hall.

But the American Wild Horse Campaign has a different take on the BLM's management style.

"Really I'm seeing this as a blunt-force approach to wild horse conservation and frankly, it's costing taxpayers a fortune," said the Campaign's Scott Wilson, who's also a wildlife photographer.

Wilson said there's much safer, cheaper, and humane alternatives to keep horses in the wild.

"We are strong advocates for fertility control - the BLM is moving in that direction, but it's far too slow and far too small scale," he said.

During the West Douglas gather, four horses had to be euthanized. The rest — 117 total — were taken to Cañon City. The BLM said those horses will end up on long-term pasture or be adopted.

WD Mare & Foal Sept 2nd 2023 (low res).mp4

Last year, 145 horses taken from the West Douglas area to Cañon City ended up dying from equine influenza. The BLM said all horses are now vaccinated when they arrive at the facility.

Another BLM operation to remove wild horses in Sand Wash Basin north of Craig is scheduledfor late September. According to the agency, that gather will utilize bait traps rather than helicopter assistance.

Mustangs in the West Douglas heard area in northwest Colorado. There's friction in the state between wild horse lovers and government management. "There's no wild horse emergency in West Douglas," said Scott Wilson with the American Wild Horse Campaign. Wilson said there's plenty of acreage there to support them.
Scott Wilson
Mustangs in the West Douglas heard area in northwest Colorado. There's friction in the state between wild horse lovers and government management. "There's no wild horse emergency in West Douglas," said Scott Wilson with the American Wild Horse Campaign. Wilson said there's plenty of acreage there to support them.

As the Newscast Editor and Producer, I provide listeners with news and information critical to our region.