Colorado wild horse removal plan announced

MEEKER — About 100 wild horses stuck for decades in a canyon-filled area in northwest Colorado could be gone by the end of next month.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management today announced a new plan to remove the horses, which were separated from a larger federally managed herd in 1983 when a highway expansion cut them off. Ever since, the agency has tried unsuccessfully to remove the wild horses from steep canyons in what’s now called the West Douglas Herd Area, south of Rangely.

The agency was blocked from removing the animals last year by a federal judge in Washington who said the BLM’s environmental assessment of its removal plan was improperly done. The plan was adjusted and refiled Sept. 3.

Barring any further legal obstacles, the BLM could start rounding up horses Oct. 4, said David Boyd, a spokesman for the Northwest Colorado Bureau of Land Management office in Silt.

Boyd said the horses will be caught using helicopters to shoo them into corrals. Gathered horses, which are called “excess” in the current environmental assessment, will be sold, adopted or sent to federal retirement pastures in the Midwest.

Once the West Douglas Herd is removed, the agency will set to thinning a larger herd on 190,000 acres across the highway. That herd currently has 318 horses; managers would like to thin it to about 135 horses to ensure they have enough food and habitat to stay healthy.

Finally, BLM plans to round up an additional 138 wild horses that have wandered outside both herds.

Boyd said the horse roundups should be complete by Oct. 22.


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