The week of 01/22/24 was a difficult one for those of us who care about the McCullough Peaks herd. The loss of Kat Ballou and the removal of Brumby, Bandero and Sky Dancer was almost too much to bear. As many of you know, these four youngsters were
trapped and removed from the range by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on 01/22/24. They were then left in a pen unattended overnight on 01/23/24. The next morning, little Kat was found
dead. The necropsy report revealed that she died from head trauma, most likely caused from running into a post in the corral as she was trying
to escape. It's hard to imagine that the BLM would be so negligent as to leave four terrified
wild babies alone in a pen overnight, but that's exactly what happened. After witnessing Kat's death, the three remaining youngsters, Brumby, Bandero and Sky Dancer, were shipped to the Rock Springs Wild Horse Holding Facility for future adoption.
Even with all the tragedy that befell the horses that week, there was one bright spot…..on Friday, 01/26/24, the pinto filly, Korinne, was locked inside the west side trap awaiting permanent removal from the range by the BLM, and a few hours later, she was set free.
Beautiful Korinne is the 2022 offspring of the mare, Kensi Blye, and the stallion, Sisika. Korinne is also the older sister of the adorable colt, Dougie. She and her brother, Dougie, spent many hours playing together during the summer of 2023. During late fall of 2023, Korinne was emancipated from her natal band and joined the stallion, Jicarilla's band. Jicarilla's band frequents Whistle Creek Road in the area of the west side trap site.
On the morning of 01/26/24, I traveled to McCullough Peaks prior to the official announcement of which horses had been removed from the range. I hoped to find the horses to determine which members of the herd had been taken. After such a traumatic event, I thought the horses would be hiding far from the trap, but when I arrived at McCullough Peaks, they were just leaving the west side trap site.
When I glassed in the direction of the horses, I noticed that most of the young horses were gone. I saw beautiful Keota without her Kat Ballou. Kat was just over one year old and was the only offspring of Keota. I saw Sage, without her daughter, Sky Dancer, who was just four months old. What was most heartbreaking was to see the lovely buckskin mare, Bonnie, missing her two youngest sons, 21-month-old Brumby, and her newest colt, Bandero, who was just 5 months old. As I was wiping the tears from my eyes, I got a text from my friend, Carol Walker. Carol forwarded me the names of the horses the BLM removed, thus confirming my suspicions that it was the youngsters who were taken. Carol also told me about the tragic death of Kat Ballou.
After getting confirmation of Kat's death, I didn't think things could
get any worse until I noticed that there was a horse locked inside the west side trap. It was the coming 2-year-old filly, Korinne. I had no idea how long Korinne had been in the trap, but she was there all alone at 7:30 am. I could occasionally hear her crying out and noticed her bandmates on the hillside looking in her direction and whinnying in reply.
Locked in a trap without her family, I'm sure Korinne felt terribly vulnerable and fearful. Thankfully, former band stallion, Raindrop, and his bachelor friend, Badger, were at the trapsite with Korinne. They were both standing alongside the trap watching Korinne and occasionally nuzzling her through the bars of the trap.
After a while, young Badger wandered off, but Raindrop stayed at the trap, keeping Korinne calm.
With Korinne locked inside the trap, I feared the BLM planned to remove her. No sooner did that thought cross my mind, when a convoy of vehicles appeared including BLM law enforcement, BLM employees and a government truck pulling a horse trailer. I was approached by a BLM law enforcement ranger and I asked him if I had to leave. He said I could stay and view the BLM operation from where I was standing, nearly 1/4 mile from the trap.
As the vehicles headed down the blocked spur road in the direction of the trap, I set up my long lens and camera on a tripod and prepared to film them. The arrival of so many vehicles spooked the horses gathered above the trap area and they immediately ran off. The only horse that refused to leave the area was Raindrop who stayed close to Korinne as BLM personnel approached the trap. I watched as BLM personnel spent a few minutes with Korinne at the trap, observing and photographing Korinne. After a while, the BLM left Korinne and returned to their vehicles.
I suspected the BLM would soon be back to load Korinne into the nearby trailer, so I decided to wait. An hour passed and nothing happened. Then another hour passed and I noticed BLM personnel were standing around talking. Finally after more than two hours, BLM personnel headed back to the trap. I watched as a man entered the trap and headed towards Korinne. From where I was standing, it appeared as though the frightened filly had moved into a corner trying to put some distance between herself and the man. I thought the man was going to try to move Korinne into the trailer, but instead he opened the gates of the trap. Then I saw the man wave his arms at Korinne and she ran through the open gates to freedom.
Korinne galloped up the hill in the direction of her family with Raindrop following close behind. I watched as the pair moved out of sight, thankful that Korinne was once again free. When I last saw Korinne, she was back with her family and Raindrop was again with his best buddy, Badger. After watching the interactions between Raindrop and Korinne at the trap, I truly believe that Raindrop's presence had a
calming influence on Korinne. She must have been terrified being
trapped in a small enclosure for the first time in her life. Not
surprisingly, Raindrop's actions weren't as selfless as they appeared.
Korinne was in season and once she was released from the trap, Korinne allowed Raindrop to breed her before the pair galloped from the trap site.
I still have no idea why the BLM decided to release Korinne, and I don't think I'll ever truly know the reason behind that decision. Even though I'm glad Korinne was set free, that doesn't excuse what happened to Kat Ballou. We can't forget that the BLM is still out on the range with their bait traps set, hoping to remove 31 additional members of the McCullough Peaks herd.
Although the BLM allowed me to view Korinne's release at the west side trap, they continue to impede the public's ability to view their operations. Since that time, the BLM has moved barricades farther from the west side trap, perhaps to restrict future viewing opportunities. In addition, the BLM has also erected barricades 1/2-1 mile from the east side trap. In doing so, they have made is impossible for the public to view this trap. Unlike the west side trap, which is easily viewed from from a main road, the east side trap is located down a steep hill off a spur road. Since the spur road is now blocked, the public is not able to access overlook points where the trap can be viewed. The location of the east side trap makes it impossible to see from other locations.
Sadly, within the last few weeks, 100+ horses have moved into the area of the east side trap. These horses, including the main Bridger herd and many of the east side bands, are now locked in the area housing the east side trap. Since so many horses are now on the east side, I believe the BLM will shift some of their focus to trapping in that area. In addition, the 50 horses near the west side trap continue to frequent the
trap to feed and I believe attempts will be made to remove more horses from that area as well.
With trapping still in process, it concerns me that the BLM will not allow any viewing of the east side trap. The public has been allowed to view previous bait trapping operations at McCullough Peaks and at other locations, so why not this one? What is the BLM trying to hide? After the tragic death of Kat Ballou, I question the BLM's adherence to animal welfare guidelines when trapping and handling these horses. Their actions seem to demonstrate a disregard for the well being of these innocent animals.
In addition, the Cody Field Office approved Resource Management Plan states that peak foaling season at McCullough Peaks begins on February 1 and that the BLM must avoid wild horse roundups six week before the start of this time period when foals are being born. Even with this stipulation, the McCullough Peaks bait trapping roundup continues as the BLM ignores one of their own directives.
From what was reported by the BLM on their website, no additional horses have been removed from McCullough Peaks since the trapping of Kat Ballou, Sky Dancer, Brumby and Bandero on 01/22/24. You can check the BLM's "McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Bait Trap Gather" Page for updates on the bait trapping operation using the link below. The Daily Gather Report is at the bottom of the page and should be updated by the BLM whenever horses are removed. The BLM still plans to remove 31 more horses from McCullough Peaks, so this bait trapping is not over yet.
If you have not yet had a chance to speak out and demand an end to this bait trap roundup, please do so today, in honor of Brumby, Bandero, Sky Dancer and dear Kat. I've included two links for you below to both American Wild Horse Campaign and to The Cloud Foundation who are fighting to end this unnecessary roundup. Please click on the links and make your voices heard.
Thanks to all of you for your continued support for the McCullough Peaks wild horses. I know it's heartbreaking when any of our beloved horses are removed from their home, but the herd still needs us. Please keep them in your thoughts and continue to send positive affirmation their way. And please take a few moments to complete the actions in the links above. Your voice can make a difference.