URGENT UPDATE 01/23/24 AFTERNOON: THE BLM HAS JUST REPORTED THAT 4 HORSES WERE TRAPPED AND REMOVED FROM THE MCCULLOUGH PEAKS HMA YESTERDAY, 01/22/24. THE IDENTITIES OF THESE HORSES ARE NOT YET KNOWN, HOWEVER, THE BLM HAS REPORTED THAT 2 STALLIONS AND 2 MARES WERE TAKEN. THESE HORSES WERE TAKEN FROM THE WEST SIDE TRAP WHERE I SAW THE RED POINT HERD AND SAN JOSE'S GROUP NAPPING YESTERDAY IN THE EARLY MORNING.
The bait trapping operation at McCullough Peaks Herd Management Area (HMA) began during the week of 11/27/23 and is currently ongoing. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans to trap and remove 35 horses, aged at 5 years old and younger, from this small population of 175 adult horses. This will bring the population number down to the high end of the Appropriate Management Level (AML) of 70-140 horses. As of 7 am Monday morning, 01/22/24, no horses have yet been trapped and removed from the McCullough Peaks HMA. You can check on the number of horses gathered by reviewing the "Daily Gather Reports" on the bottom of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) “McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Bait Trap Gather” Page (click link below). The Daily Gather Report should be updated by the BLM whenever horses are removed. Currently, the number of horses removed by the BLM is reported as zero.
During the week of 11/27/23, two traps were erected at McCullough Peaks; one on the west side of the HMA and one on the east side. These traps are left locked open for extended periods of time to allow the horses to acclimate to them. Food (hay/mineral licks) is placed inside the traps as incentive for the horses to enter. In addition, food is also placed outside the traps to lure the horses towards them. As described by the BLM, these traps are monitored remotely to ascertain if and when horses are using the traps. During an actual trapping operation, BLM personnel will be on site to manually close the trap gates to capture the horses within the trap.
The west side trap is located in the North Pasture of the Red Point Allotment within the HMA. Immediately after the west side trap was erected, food was used to lure a nearby group of 14 towards the trap. These horses include San Jose’s band, Jicarilla’s band and Pawnee’s band. I will refer to these three bands as "San Jose's group". Over the next few weeks, San Jose's group didn’t stray too far from the trap area and were observed eating the food the BLM put out for them. The youngest of the horses seemed the most fascinated with the food and treats. Sadly, it is the youngest of these horses that will be targeted by the BLM.
Eventually, San Jose's group was seen entering the trap willingly to receive food rewards. San Jose's group has been observed feeding from the trap site on and off for the last two months, however, none of the members of San Jose's group have been trapped and removed from the McCullough Peaks HMA as of yesterday morning 01/22/24.
In late October of 2023, the main Red Point herd migrated to their wintering grounds, spending the months of November and December there. This mountainous area is approximately 10 miles from the North Pasture and the west side trap. The main Red Point herd is comprised of 36 horses in the following bands: Maverick's band, Romeo's band, Kasper's band, Two Sock's band, Ponca's band, Kingsman's band and Cigaro's band. In addition, two bachelor stallions, Badger and Raindrop, are also part of the main Red Point herd.
Unfortunately, during the week of 01/01/24, the main Red Point herd left their winter range and headed south in the direction of the North Pasture. The BLM was aware of the herd’s movements and used hay to encourage the horses to travel through the gates in the direction of the trap within the North Pasture.
Once all members of the main Red Point herd had moved into the North Pasture, BLM personnel closed and padlocked all gates leading to this area. This restricts the horse’s movements to within the North Pasture only, keeping them enclosed in the area containing the west side trap.
Currently, 50 horses (the main Red Point herd and San Jose’s group) are padlocked in the North Pasture. This area encompasses thousands of acres, but is only one small section of the HMA. Sadly, having these horses locked in such a small area near the trap will, most likely, make it easier for the BLM to capture and remove members of this herd in the coming weeks.
Sub-zero temperatures appeared to sideline the trapping operation in early January, but as the weather warmed late last week, BLM personnel were again filling the west side trap with food for the horses. As verified on the morning of 01/22/24, none of the 50 horses locked in the North Pasture have been trapped and removed, but these horses have been seen eating in the west side trap on numerous occasions.
There are far fewer horses in the vicinity of the trap on the east side of the range. This trap is located in the southern portion of the Dry Creek Pasture within the HMA. When this trap was first put in place during the week of 11/27/23, the BLM strategically placed hay throughout the pasture to lure horses to the trap site. The horses in the area at that time, including Splaash's band, became noticeably food conditioned and began to approach cars and people for handouts. Thankfully, most of the horses, including Splaash's band, have left the area. Currently, only Tishamingo’s band and Sorcerer/Sayre’s band (9 horses in total) and some lone bachelor stallions, including Muskogee, are in the area of the east side trap. It’s possible that these horses are entering the trap for food rewards, but I haven’t observed them doing so.
Hundreds of cattle were moved to the Dry Creek Pasture in late December, which may have paused trapping operations at the east side trap, due to the cattle's proximity to the trap. As of 01/21/24, it appears that all cattle in the Dry Creek Pasture have been removed. If trapping was paused due to the influx of cattle, it's likely that trapping operations will again commence at this trap site.
As was the case in December, the majority of McCullough Peaks wild horses continue to be far from any traps. In fact, many of the horses haven’t been seen for quite some time. It’s not unusual for these horses to migrate to inaccessible areas during the winter when they can be out of sight for months. Unfortunately, the horses don’t normally stay in one area indefinitely and may move near one of the trap sites at any time.
At the time of this writing, no horses have yet been trapped and removed from McCullough Peaks HMA as of the 7 am in the morning of 01/22/24. Trapping operations may continue through mid-March, so the BLM has ample time to remove the designated number of horses. As mentioned previously, there will be no public observation allowed of this bait trapping operation. The BLM Press Release of 11/13/23 stated that “only essential gather operations personnel will be allowed at trap sites and the spur roads leading to the trap sites during operations.” This is concerning since during the last bait trapping at McCullough Peaks in 2013, the public was welcome to view the operation. In addition, both helicopter and bait trap roundups of wild horses and burros are normally open to public viewing.
It also stated that "all horses identified for removal will be transported to the Rock Springs Wild Horse Holding Facility, where they will be checked by a veterinarian and readied for adoption. Information about how to adopt a McCullough Peaks wild horse will be posted by the BLM in early 2024 and shared via news release and social media." You can see a photo of the conditions at the Rock Springs Wild Horse Holding Facility below. It's heartbreaking to know that all the McCullough Peaks wild horses needlessly removed from the range will end up at this glorified feed lot.
I would like to thank all of you for your continued support of the McCullough Peaks wild horses. I'm relieved that no horses have yet been removed from the range as of the morning of 01/22/24, but I imagine that will change. Even so, I will continue to hope that they stay far from the traps for the next few months. Please keep the McCullough Peaks herd in your thoughts and continue to visualize them moving away from the traps that have been set for them. They really do need all of our help and positive thoughts right now. Thank you for caring!