Adoption event set for horses rounded up from Sand Wash Basin

DENVER — The Bureau of Land Management is holding a wild horse and burro adoption event this week, which will include horses rounded up from the Sand Wash Basin in the late summer last year.

The outdoor event will take place March 4-5 at Pathfinder Regional Park in Florence. Public viewings will happen on Friday from 12 pm to 6 pm and Saturday from 7 am to 9 am A silent auction and adoption will follow from 10 am to 11 am Bidders must be present during the silent auction to place a bid, and BLM staff will approve applications onsite.

Seventy-eight wild horses from the Sand Wash Basin that were part of the roundup will be available for adoption. Stephanie Connolly, Colorado’s acting state director, said the horses from the Sand Wash Basin are “highly popular” with adopters.

“They are known for their unique colors ranging from pintos and red roans to sorrels with flaxen-manes and tails, their large stature and gentle dispositions,” Connolly said. “We appreciate those who adopt and welcome these horses into their families.”

Bureau of Land Management Colorado Northwest District

BLM conducted the wild horse roundup in the Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area from Sept. 1-8, 2021. There were an estimated 896 wild horses in the Sand Wash Basin, which is more than double the high end of the Appropriate Management Level of what the land can sustain, according to BLM. In total, 684 wild horses were gathered in the roundup.

Forty-nine wild horses were released into the Sand Wash Basin HMA after the mares were treated for fertility control, and three mares were introduced into the Spring Creek Basin HMA to enhance the herd’s genetic pool, BLM said in September.

Chris Maestas, a public affairs specialist for BLM, said a post-gather population census estimated 290 wild horses remain on the range.

The roundup was criticized by lawyers who were concerned about the use of helicopters to round up the wild horses. Gov. Jared Polis also wrote to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland just before the roundup asking for a delay. He suggested the state could “work more collaboratively with the BLM to effectuate more scientific and human outcomes to herd management.”

However, Little Snake Field Manager Bruce Sillitoe said the roundups were necessary to maintain a healthy population of wild horses due to concerns that there was an emergency situation with the food and the rangeland resources that could have led to “many” horses dying. Sillitoe also said the bureau is “very careful” when using helicopters to round up wild horses.

In an interview with Denver7 Thursday, Maestas said BLM used a technique called “drive trapping” during the roundup, which he said “has been proven safe, humane and effective.”

Scott Wilson, a Colorado photographer and American Wild Horse Campaign board member, called the American mustangs a “national treasure” that he hopes are adopted into safe homes or sanctuaries, though he said adoption isn’t a sustainable solution for wild horse management.

“We need to provide greater protections for wild horses on the public lands where they belong, curtail livestock grazing in wild horse habitat and manage human numbers when necessary. The wild horses being offered for adoption this weekend were captured in traumatic helicopter stampedes. The Academy of Sciences has determined the BLM’s management of these animals by roundup and removal ‘expensive and unproductive’ with the current roundup plan estimated to cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion over the next 5 years,” Wilson said. “Worse still, a number of the wild horses being offered for adoption are ultimately at risk of slaughter thanks to a federal program that pays $1,000 to adopt an untamed wild horse or burro.”

According to Suzanne Roy with the American Wild Horse Campaign, a study shows 88% of Americans want wild horses protected. She said the adoption programs are “irresponsible” and also place wild horses at risk for slaughter.

“Many face an uncertain future thanks to the BLM’s Adoption Incentive Program, which pays individuals $1,000 to adopt up to four untamed wild horses or burros at a time,” Roy said. “Our investigation shows that this program is attracting adopters who are motivated by the cash incentive award but lack the desire, resources or to provide a long term home for these wild animals. As a result, many are sending their adopted wild horses and burros to kill pens across the country once they receive the incentive payment.”

The BLM conducts compliance inspections of adopted, untitled animals living in private care, according to Maestas. The BLM requires all title applications to be signed by a veterinarian or other authorized officer to ensure the animal is in good health before ownership is transferred from the BLM to the adopter. The BLM does not adopt or sell any wild horses to slaughterhouses or to “killer buyers.”

This week’s adoption event includes the first 78 of the 632 horses that have been prepared for adoption — which includes receiving shots, gelding and freeze tagging.

Additional adoption events will be held in the future. There are plans to hold events in Hayden in late May, as well as feature some of the horses in the Meeker Mustang Makeover this summer. Information on future adoption events will be released once details are finalized.

A full timeline of events can be found below:

  • Friday, March 4

    • Public viewing from 12 to 6 pm
  • Saturday, March 5

    • Public viewing from 7 to 9 am
    • Silent auction and adoption from 10 to 11 am
    • First-come, first-serve from 11:45 am to 3 pm
    • Loadout from 11:30 am to 5 pm

BLM’s Adoption Incentive Program has helped place 8,637 animals into private care in 2021, the most the bureau has done since 1997.

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