A project to thin the size of the local wild horse herd has ended, with the focus of efforts shifting to finding new homes for the animals that were removed.
The Bureau of Land Management has removed 55 horses since early September from the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range, five short of its goal of 60. It first had removed 27 using water and food as bait to lure horses into corral traps, and then brought in a helicopter for use over the past week to focus on mostly remote parts of the range where bait traps couldn't be set up. The helicopter is used to steer horses into traps.
The agency undertook the operation because of concerns about heavy grazing pressure by the horses, a problem exacerbated by drought.
Before the project began, an estimated 190 horses were on the 36,000-acre range, compared to what the BLM says is an appropriate management level of 90 to 150 horses there.
Altogether, the project resulted in 96 horses being captured, including 46 mares, 15 foals and 25 stallions, but 41 were released. The BLM is selective about what horses it deems appropriate for removal, based on criteria developed in cooperation with the local Friends of the Mustangs nonprofit group.
The released horses included 23 mares, 17 stallions and one foal.
The BLM treated 10 mares with a temporary birth-control vaccine before releasing them.
No horses were injured or killed in the roundup, which is referred to as a gather by the BLM.
Meanwhile, an initial local adoption event has been scheduled to offer the first 27 horses that were removed. It's planned for Nov. 3 at Rimrock Adventures, 927 Colorado Highway 340, in Fruita, and is a cooperative effort of Friends of the Mustangs and the BLM.
An opportunity to view horses and fill out an adoption application will occur from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 2 at the same venue, and from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Nov. 3. There also will be training demonstrations Friday.
An hourlong silent auction to adopt horses starts at 10 a.m. Nov. 3. The animals will be offered at a minimum $125 bid.
The BLM provides detailed information on its wild horse and burro adoption program at blm.gov/programs/wild-horse-and-burro/adoption-and-sales, where applications also may be found.
Information on the upcoming event, including profiles of some of the horses that will be available, can be found at friendsofthemustangs.org/upcoming-events.html, and on the Friends of the Mustangs Facebook page.
A spokesman for the BLM said a second adoption event involving the additional animals that have been removed from the local range over the past week is tentatively planned for January.