Death of wild horse along Colorado Highway 318 reminder to watch for animals crossing Northwest Colorado roads
The discovery of a dead wild horse alongside Colorado Highway 318 in February is a timely reminder to watch for wildlife along Colorado roadways, especially in winter, and adds urgency to discussions about permanent safety measures to prevent horse versus vehicle collisions.
Moffat County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Ryan Hampton located the body of a dead mare while on patrol in mid-February, Sheriff KC Hume said.
Hampton reported the incident to the Bureau of Land Management, the agency responsible for managing horses in the Sand Wash Wild Horse Management Area, about 45 miles northwest of Craig. They were already aware of the deceased horse and were looking into it, Hume said.
The information wasn’t communicated by BLM to wild horse advocates, who re-discovered the carcass Feb. 23. Advocates were concerned about the cause of death and that the horse had been moved.
“As per our standards with wild animals, our maintenance team used a loader to move the horse a safe distance from the highway. We often do this with wild animals and then allow nature to take its course,” Colorado Department of Transportation spokesperson Tracy Trulove wrote in an emailed response to questions about the incident.
In the following days, Corporal Dara Bond, also of the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, stopped to investigate motorists pulled off the side of the highway near the body. They were using a metal detector to investigate, Hume said.
In an official statement Monday, BLM spokesperson David Boyd said, “We investigated the area and the horse and found no indication the horse had been shot. No injury, no bullet found with a metal detector. In fact, there apparently was no obvious injury on the horse at all, and as far as I know, no accident report related to a collision with a vehicle, so it is not clear how the horse died.”
“While we don’t know how the horse died, it’s still a good reminder for people to be careful driving in northwestern Colorado. As people familiar with northwestern Colorado well know, wild animals and livestock may be encountered on the roads any time, especially in the winter. We encourage folks driving the roads in northwestern Colorado to remain alert for the possibility of animals on the road,” Boyd said.
CDOT and BLM are working together to explore possible solutions to the increasing problem of horses on the highway, a hazard to travelers and animals, alike.
“One of our challenges with the Sand Wash herd right now is that the estimated population is approximately twice the appropriate management level of 362 horses, so horses are more likely to disperse into additional areas,” Boyd said.
In the meantime, “our portable variable message boards have been on Colorado 318 since early fall alerting motorists to be alert for the possibility of wild horses near the highway,” Truelove said.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.