The bait trapping operation at the McCullough Peaks Herd Management Area (HMA) began during the week of 11/27/23. From a population count of 175 adult horses, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans to remove 35 horses to bring the population down to the high end of the Appropriate Management Level (AML) of 70-140 horses. As recorded in the "2023 McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Bait Trap Gather" Page in the link below, the BLM has adjusted down the removal number from 41 to 35 horses following the deaths of 6 horses from natural causes during the summer/fall of 2023. The bait trapping operation could continue through mid-March, if necessary.
As stated in an interview in the Greybull Standard published on 10/19/23, “the Cody Field Office will look at horses that are five years old and younger, and then determine which horses to remove.” Depending on how you count the population of horses aged five years old and younger at McCullough Peaks, there are currently 48-60 horses in this age range. It must be noted that while 35 members of the McCullough Peaks herd will be permanently removed from the 120,000 acres they call home, hundreds of cattle will continue to graze undisturbed within the HMA.
During the week of 11/27/23, the traps were erected at McCullough Peaks; one on the west side of the HMA and one on the east side. The walls of the traps are made with metal corral panels and are locked in an open position when the BLM is not actively “trapping” horses. The traps are left locked open for extended periods of time to allow the horses to acclimate to their presence. 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.
In the case of the west side trap, food was used to lure a nearby group of fourteen horses towards the trap almost immediately after it was placed. These horses include San Jose’s band (San Jose, Seminole, Black Beauty and Wapi), Jicarilla’s band (Jicarilla, Tigress, India and Korinne) and Pawnee’s band (Pawnee, Jenks, June, Legacy, Jeremiah and Jules). Food was placed along a horse trail which led to the trap and horses were observed actively fighting over food. Over the next few weeks, the horses didn’t seem to stray too far from the trap area and continued to eat the food placed for them. Eventually, these three bands of horses were seen entering the trap willingly to receive food rewards. After they finished eating, the horses left the trap and moved on.
There are far fewer horses close to the trap on the east side of the HMA. Recently, there were three bachelor stallions, Muskogee, Tomahawk, and Kentucky who were staying very near to the trap. It's possible that they were entering the trap for food rewards, but that has not been verified. Most of the horses on the east side are more than a mile from the trap and it’s unclear if they even know of its existence, however, food has been placed strategically to lure them in the direction of the trap. The horses in the vicinity of the traps include Sargent’s band (Sargent, Sucki, Songaa, Shiloh, Scooter, Deya, and Deyton), Sorcerer/Sayre’s band (Sorcerer/Sayre and Calypso) and Tishamingo’s band (Tishamingo, Weeleetka, Woya, Wakebbe, Willow, Diamonds, Medicine Girl, and Medicine Moon). These three bands may have ventured into the trap, but I have not observed them doing so.
The majority of the McCullough Peaks wild horses are not near any traps. In fact, most of the horses have not been seen for quite some time. It's not unusual for these horses to migrate to inaccessible areas during late fall/winter when they can be out of sight for months. These horses don’t normally stay in one area exclusively and may eventually move near one of the trap sites. With limited snow on the range and temperatures reaching as high as 50 degrees, the horses will travel more than they would if the range was covered in deep snowpack.
At the time of this writing (12/18/23), no horses have yet been trapped and removed from McCullough Peaks. As mentioned previously, there will be no public observation allowed of this bait trapping operation. The BLM Press Release of 11/13/23 states that “only essential gather operation personnel will be allowed at trap sites and the spur roads leading to the trap sites during operations.” It also states 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." The BLM will provide general information about horses removed on the McCullough Peaks Bait Trap Gather Page in their "Daily Gather Reports".
Thank you all for your continued support of the McCullough Peaks wild horses. I'm relieved that no horses have yet been removed from the range, 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. Many thanks for caring!