BLM says bait trap operations in Sand Wash Basin on hold, for now

Horses graze in the Sand Wash Basin on Sept. 9, 2023. The Bureau of Land Management said a bait-trap operation scheduled to begin Sept. 25 is on hold until the results from a census conducted in August comes back to the agency.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Bait trap operations, planned to start later this month in the Sand Wash Herd Management Area, are on hold, according to a Bureau of Land Management official.

“I just found out that the national website has that information incorrect,” said Kymm Gresset, Little Snake field manager for BLM. “That gather is (to be determined) pending our August census after the long winter.”

According to the BLM website, this type of gather normally consists of setting up one or more pens on public lands and baiting horses to enter the pen with food, water or another treat such as salt. When the animals enter the pen, a gate is shut by personnel, or controlled remotely with the help of a live cam.

The operation in the Sand Wash Herd Management Area was slated to begin Sept. 25 and run through Oct. 30. The BLM had expected to gather 80 horses, with 20 being removed and 60 returned to the range. Thirty of the horses that were to be released back to the range were to be treated with fertility control. That was according to the BLM’s 2024 Tentative Wild Horse and Burro Gather and Fertility Control schedule that was updated on Aug. 20.

Gresset said Tuesday that the BLM has not received results of the August census, and the gather in the Sand Wash Basin is currently on hold. She added that if the BLM does proceed with the gather, it will be listed on the national website.

“With the high mortality of other animals in the area, we are hopeful that we’re not having as much mortality because we did the gather in 2021,” Gresset said. “We are hopeful that it allowed the range to rebound and provided the herd more adequate forage for the winter.”

She said the purpose of the planned gather was to maintain area management levels.

The BLM just completed a helicopter drive trapping operation Sept. 8 in the West Douglas area in Rio Blanco County, where officials reported that 122 horses were gathered and removed. In 2022, the bureau conducted a helicopter drive trap gather in the Piceance East Douglas Herd Management Area and another was completed in the summer of 2021 in the Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area.

“The biggest message is highlighting our previous gathering in 2021 that did allow the range to rebound and provided more adequate forage for herd for the winter,” Gresset said.

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