Wild Horse Education

Little Owyhee (release and more)

View from observation location of trap and release points.

The Little Owyhee Herd Management Area (HMA) is the largest of the 5 HMAs of the Owyhee Complex. Spanning over 719 square miles (460,227 acres) the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has set the “appropriate” management level at 194-298 wild horses. The Owyhee Complex contains some of the richest habitat in the state; Little Owyhee is prime grazing and hunting grounds.

The objective of the ongoing Owyhee Complex roundup is “maintenance of AML and fertility control.” The Complex has been hit with roundups 5 times under the “ten year EA” approved in September of 2012. Each operation included a release of wild horses back to the range treated with immunocontraception, PZP-22.

The BLM will be doing a new “gather EA” for the complex soon. They should be doing an actual management plan, a Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP).

Instead of doing actual management planning, the BLM is following the “2020 plan” that was funded in 2021 and set to be funded in 2022; get to low AML and increase fertility control (essentially that is all that happens in the on-range part of the program, clearing the pens through increased adoptions etc. are the off-range portions.  The “Path Forward,” originally titled “Ten Years to AML” when it began in 2016, did not include actual management planning (In 2016, WHE sent the group a document before the document finalized in 2017, by request, it was rejected by the groups and WHE was cut from further discussions). Instead, fertility control and large-scale removals are occurring without any reform of the program; the HMAP process, and all of the avenues to address AML, forage, fences, waters, etc. that could actually create management reform, are not (see page 5).

Owyhee is an example of the “2020 plan.” At the Little Owyhee HMA, BLM removed wild horses to low AML and released 111 wild horses (48 mares treated with PZP-22); an increase in contraception from the last remove/release.

Click HERE for the release at the Snowstorm HMA in the Owyhee Complex and information about immunocontraception. 

Video below: 2 trailers of studs are released and begin to navigate the maze of barbed wire in the same area they were pushed through by the helicopter during trapping, to go back home. We certainly hope no one closed the gates.

After more than ten days of trying to negotiate a view of the largest release, back to the largest HMA in complex, our observer was finally permitted to go back to her observation point for the trap. Usually at a release we can get close, stand with BLM, and actually get you clear images of “who” goes home. At Little Owyhee the agency used one trap that was overly restrictive to the public in a private, verbal, agreement with the permittee. More time was spent justifying restrictions to public First Amendment rights, recognized by the courts, than trying to find a solution. A “solution” was reached just before the trailers pulled out.

In the video you can clearly see the distance we have to work within to try to bring the public any view of “your tax dollars at work.” Daily reporting from roundups is key to the foundation of our organization; the humane handling policy is not simply a line item for us, it lies at the heart of WHE. (We are the only org to ever walk BLM into a federal courthouse over abuse.)

Video: The 3rd trailer of studs offloads and they join the other two heading along the barbed wire fence over the mountain at the far side of the valley.

If the Owyhee operation is an example of “forward motion” that took years to create and to present to Congress, why is there so much difficulty to show the public the results of years of negotiations and planning?

A release is usually a moment to reflect on the wild ones still free and the work ahead. As these wild horses find there was back home, we reflect on all the progress that was lost as BLM moved “forward.”

Our observer was the only one on-site, with the exception of 2 days, for the entire first phase of the Owyhee Complex roundup.

We are still editing the release footage. Large files that are taken at great distances take a long time to review and edit. We will add more as edits complete.

You can view the first phase, the east side, of the Owyhee Complex roundup updates HERE. 


Totals for the first phase of the Owyhee Complex roundup to date as:

Captured: 552 (235 Stallions, 219 Mares, and 98 Foals)

Shipped: 371 (139 Stallions, 142 Mares, and 90 Foals) shipped to the off-limits-to-the-public facility in Sutherland, Utah. 2 domestics were shipped to the brand inspector in NV, if unclaimed they will go to auction.

Released: 166 (94 Stallions, 68 Mares, and 4 Foals), the 68 mares treated with PZP-22.

Deaths: 12


Our WHEStorefront added a new collection, including a calendar, in time for the holidays. You can see the new collection HERE.  

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More on the BLM HMAP process HERE.


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Categories: Wild Horse Education