Wild horse killed near Sand Wash Basin in Northwest Colorado | CraigDailyPress.com

Wild horse killed near Sand Wash Basin in Northwest Colorado

Drivers should use caution as winter conditions keep horses near the highway

A wild horse was killed on Thursday morning when a vehicle collided with it on Highway 318 near Sand Wash Basin about 45 miles west of Craig. Wild horses have been near to the highway throughout the winter. Dark horses are difficult to see at night. The photo was taken at another time, but shows the large bay mare (front, right) that was killed.

— A wild horse was hit and killed Thursday morning north of Maybell near Sand Wash Basin, about 45 miles west of Craig.

"At about 2:30 a.m., state patrol received a call that a passenger vehicle had hit and killed a horse near mile marker 38 on Colo. Highway 318," said Colorado State Patrol Capt. Douglas Conrad. "No injuries to people were reported."

The horse has been moved from the road, and state patrol has concluded its investigation of the incident.

"Much like when you hit a deer or elk on the roadway, we won't charge you for that. We would rather you have a crash with the animal than swerve and attempt to miss and have a worse accident," Conrad said.

This is the second wild horse to have been killed this winter, said Sand Wash Basin Advocate Team Field Manager Stella Trueblood.

SWAT members are volunteers with the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary and partner with Bureau of Land Management in managing the wild horses of Sand Wash Basin.

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BLM and SWAT have previously raised concerns with Colorado Department of Transportation regarding the lack of warning signs.

"We are talking to CDOT about possible warning signs in the area and also exploring options to move the Herd Management Area boundary fence to the north side of the highway. Right now, it is on the south side," said BLM Public Affairs Specialist David Boyd.

Sand Wash Basin is home to more than 600 wild horses. Winter weather influences their movements.

"Historically, horses have moved closer to the highway in winter, and hard winters seem to push more toward the highway," Trueblood said.

The size of the herd could also be a factor.

"As horse numbers continue to increase in Sand Wash, we will also likely see more horse movement," Boyd said.

To help control the population BLM has been gathering horses in a bait and trap operation that began in November. Operations were halted in late December and resumed Jan. 20.

Captured mares are treated with PZP birth control and released. At least 50 young horses will be removed and placed into adoption programs.

A total of 157 horses have been gathered; 115 have been released including 14 mares treated with PZP. Cañon City has received a total of 42 horses. All are in good condition, including those received before the break, Boyd said.

The operation will continue as weather permits.

"People driving Highway 318 should be aware that they may encounter horses near Sand Wash this time of year," Boyd said. "Of course, there is high potential for encountering deer and elk in winter all along Highway 318, as well, so people need to be alert."

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.