Rather than a quick roundup using a herding helicopter, the Bureau of Land Management is employing a different method to gather in wild horses off the range near Challis over the next several months.
The BLM has deployed temporary water and hay/mineral bait traps consisting of a series of corral panels in the Challis Wild Horse Herd Management Area.
“The bait-trap method has been employed in a lot of our herd management areas where we think it might work,” said Heather Tiel-Nelson, of the BLM. “The thinking was if we could remove smaller numbers from the herd to keep it within management levels it would help out in the long run. This way we’re able to apply fertility control to the mares that we hope we capture.”
The BLM has allotted six months for the capture program.
The BLM plans to capture about 70 wild horses and remove about 35 to 39 from the population for the adoption program. About 30 or so mares will be released back into the wild horse population after being treated with a fertility control.
“We know that these wild horse herds, particularly at Challis, grow at about 18% to 20% a year,” Tiel-Nelson said.
The BLM has set the “appropriate management level” of about 185 wild horses for the Challis Wild Herd Management Area. The current population is pegged at about 224 animals.
“This is a very passive method where you put hay or minerals within a set of corrals we’ve set up,” Tiel-Nelson said. “When the horses come in, they trip a wire that will close the gate on its own. The traps have to be checked every day to see if there are horses in it. Then they will be transported to the Challis off-range corral.”
At the off-range corrals the horses are checked by a veterinarian and readied for the wild horse and burro adoption and sale program.
Tiel-Nelson said the public is not invited to watch the capture process as they have been during past wild horse drives using helicopters.
“The horses are very wary,” she said. “If there’s additional movement or distractions that could slow down the method of capturing horses that way.”
The BLM conducted a successful wild horse gather of about 210 animals in September north of Emmett using a helicopter. The desired herd size there is about 60 horses.
“We gathered 180 head in the first day,” Tiel-Nelson said of the gather near Emmett. “It was amazing. I think they were ready to come in. … The (horse management area) was suffering the impacts of drought and the horses were starting to show signs of that as far as a few ribs and hip bones sticking out. We wrapped up that gather in two days.”
For information on the wild horse and burro adoption program, go to blm.gov/whb.