Wild Horse Education

1 Trap Tradition (Owyhee Update)

Little Owyhee trap, every year. Private property and a literal maze of barbed wire.

Yesterday 60 wild horses (24 Stallions, 23 Mares, and 13 Foals) were captured from the same trap at Little Owyhee, one of the HMAs in the Owyhee Complex. Runs were spaced more than an hour apart on this third day at this trap as horses are run longer and get harder to find; the last run came in at 5:15 p.m. ( we call it “squeezing the trap dry”).

This puts the total captured at this trap at 220 of the 326 targeted for capture from this HMA. The agency plans to permanently remove 216 from this HMA. The target for capture is 326. The number of wilds horses released is simply dependent on the amount of wild horses caught subtracted from the targeted removal number.

Video below: is a run at the Little Owyhee trap showing just one of the gates wild horses are being run through to get from public lands to the trap set on private property (this one near a corner where barbed wire fencing meets).

Tradition, Editorial Review

One of the things we see BLM do is repeat the past again and again. Often watching BLM operate is like time traveling back a decade, two decades, five decades. A few things change, like using apps to navigate and employees using cell phones to livestream to their family and friends, but too much stays the same.

The basics of field operations follow decades old patterns, like using a single trap to gather the large HMAs of the Owyhee Complex. These traps are not “in the middle” of vast territories, but usually near an edge. This “tradition” creates a situation where wild horses are traveling large distances through mazes of barbed wire. Many of the “Owyhee Complex trap traditions” set trap on private land and push horses from public lands into those traps. These traditions began as ranchers would often “host” roundup crews on their ranches, they still do. It was really easy, and popular, to just set trap on the property belonging to your host. (WHE history note: In 2010 when our founder started showing up, at the Owyhees after getting a court order that “BLM needed to make every effort to provide access,” she was told “no one ever came before.” So providing meaningful daily access was just not a tradition and, to this day, still stick with using private property to deny access?)

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Over 40 years after BLM set the first official trap location at an HMA in the Owyhees, the claim from the agency is that “we care about the horses” and do not “run them long distances.” They will also say “we move trap locations” frequently to allow the areas to settle” and to “bring the trap to the horses.”

We never see that in the HMAs in the Owyhees. We see one trap, usually one that has some kind of restriction imposed on the First Amendment rights of observers by the permittee, perpetuated by BLM because they can not seem to buck that tradition. Move the trap onto public lands and only set holding on public land (or where the permittee can respect and appreciate the publics right to observe).

Video Below: The 1 trap location used at Snowstorm

BLM said they are doing the capture of wild horses HMA-by-HMA and then determining return/treatment based on HMA-by-HMA trapping numbers. BLM has not provided any other breakdown methodology or data for trapping/release.

Breakdown of traps and HMAs to date at the ongoing Owyhee Complex roundup:

Snowstorm:

BLM captured 229 wild horses and 5 died. 55 wild horses were released, 20 mares received PZP-22.

The population level (AML) set by BLM is 90-140. The 2021 roundup pushed population down to low AML with about half the mares left in the HMA treated with an immunocontraceptive vaccine.

The Snowstorm HMA consists of 117,109 acres or 182.98 square miles.

The operation in Snowstorm was all done from 1 trap location in the corner of the  HMA.

Little Owyhee: 

So far, the agency has captured 220 of the 326 horses targeted and 2 have died.

The population level (AML) set by BLM is 194-298. The 2021 roundup plans to push population down to low AML, with about half the mares left in the HMA treated with an immunocontraceptive vaccine.

Little Owyhee is the largest HMA in the complex at 460,227 acres or 719 square miles.

BLM has claimed to our on-site observer that there is no other trap location in the HMA. We expect BLM will do the entire capture in the Little Owyhee HMA from the 1 trap on the southern end on private property limiting public access to view only 2 days a week of capture.

The trap location is as far as 40+ miles in a straight line to the border of the HMA.

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There are 3 more HMAs in the Complex. BLM is trapping/treating/releasing HMA-by-HMA. The operation should move to the eastern HMAs next week.

Will this “one trap” tradition to continue?

Owyhee Tradition.


Our on-site observer was back out today. Even though the agency is denying observation, we still show up and try to see what we can see.

News coming from our other teams soon.

You can follow the on-going Owyhee Complex roundup HERE. 

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Categories: Wild Horse Education