Wild horse advocates improve the range for everyone
September 18, 2016
Craig — Wild horses living in Sand Wash Basin are safer after two truckloads of old, rusty wire was removed from an abandoned corral by volunteers attending the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary's on-range Sand Wash Advocacy Team's third annual rendezvous on Saturday.
The 157,730-acre Sand Wash herd management area is located 45 miles west of Craig in the Sand Wash Basin and is one of four wild horse herd management areas in the state.
The Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary is a non-profit that works with the Bureau of Land Management to bring education and awareness about Spanish and American mustangs and burros, to support wild horses on the range and provide training, adoptions and sanctuary, particularly to the horses of Sand Wash Basin.
The Sand Wash Advocacy Team is an on-the-range project of the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary and was formed in 2012. The all-volunteer group works on herd documentation, population and range management.
Wire removal has become an annual tradition started after a beloved Sand Wash stallion, called Greasewood, by the group, was entangled in wire sustaining an injury that required the horse to be killed, according to Stella Trueblood, who is a program manager for the advocacy team.
In past years the group has removed over 700 pounds of old wire. The wire removed this year has yet to be weighed.
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"This is a bigger group than last year," said Shawn Stoeher, an advocacy member who helps with herd photo identification. "There are people here from Texas, Missouri, Canada; it's really cool to see people in from all over."
The group of about 50 people also assisted BLM in adding a brochure box at one of the informational kiosks in the basin and they attempted, but were unsuccessful, at herding recently escaped horses back into the fenced management area.
The day included a geology and archeology field lecture by BLM Little Snake Field Office field archeologist Gary Collins who spoke about stromatolites and chert mines unique to the area. The event also included opportunities to view wild horses and ended with a barbecue.
"We started coming for the horses, but there's so much more. It's fascinating," Trueblood said.
The group plans to fix cut fence and repair water springs in the coming months.
Over 560 horses live in the area, well over the 360 horse limit for the approved appropriate management level, according to BLM's 2015 wild horse census.
The advocacy team assists with population control by carefully tracking the mares and administering Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP), an immunocontraceptive, non-hormonal, vaccine that is delivered intramuscularly, using a dart shot into mares annually, as a reversible form of birth control.
"When we formed we realized we would have to work with BLM," said Aleta Wolf, with the Sand Wash Advocacy Team. "They are designated by the Federal Government to manage the horses, so we really couldn't do the work without them."
The collaborative partnership model is one that BLM encourages.
"The BLM is really fortunate to have a partnership with the group," said Gina Robison, outdoor recreation planner for the BLM Little Snake Field Office in Craig. "Their passion and dedication shows in all the volunteer hours they have contributed over the past few years through such tasks as darting and education, and much more."
She reminds visitors to Sand Wash Basin to respect the horses by viewing them from a distance, not chasing them and not camping at or near critical water sources.
"We are trying to keep the wild horses wild," Stoehr said.