Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wild Horses: Legislation and the McCullough Peaks Herd

Good news for the wild horses - on Friday, HR 1018, the ROAM act which restores protection to America's wild horses passed in the House of Representatives. Now a much tougher fight faces this bill in the Senate, which has often become a graveyard for wild horse legislation. This time, however, we have a democratic majority - which give me hope that some change IS possible. It is going to take pressure from the constituents of these Senators.

Two and a half weeks ago I returned from a trip to 2 herds that I have been following for 6 years, and I wrote in my last blog about that trip. Today I'll write about my trip to visit the McCullough Peaks Herd, located in Northern Wyoming. This herd roams on 110,000 acres, and the current population is 214 horses. Last year, the BLM published and Environmental Assessment prior to gathering the herd, and they had proposed to take the herd down to 100 horses, and do birth control on the mares returned to the herd area. The gather did not take place last year, but plans are in the works for this fall. This would mean 114 more horses in long term holding, in jeopardy of being euthanized, and also that the herd would be reduced below the number necessary to sustain genetic viability.

One of my favorite stallions in the area is a big 8 year old black and white pinto named Washakie (Rerun by the BLM). Three years ago he had no mares but this year his band had increased dramatically in size - and so had his assertiveness!
I was delighted to see some pinto foals this year as well.

One evening just before we ae about to get into the car, when the light had all but left the area, a group of extremely curious pronghorn antelope were checking up out. They kept getting closer and closer and closer until boom - they charged off.

Another favorite stallion of mine is a big grey named Indigo, and his band had increased in size as well. It was wonderful to see the perlino colts I have followed since they were born in 2007, with their playmates, the pinto filly and the bay filly. These four will be heading out of the herd soon. But a touching moment for me was seeing one of the older colts with this year's palomino filly.

A humorous moment was spotting - surprise - a mule out there! He was following Warbonnet (Medicine Boy to the BLM)who doesn't seem too sure about this. The next day we spot him following a big bay bachelor stallion.

On my last day in the area, I am waiting for the horses to come to water, which may or may not happen. Sometimes I have waited many hours with no luck. This evening, it is a toss up as to whether the horses will make it to the water hole before the biggest blackest cloud I have ever seen will unload on us and trap us in the area's mud before we can get out. I have to be practically dragged away from the waterhole from my friend and fellow photographer Deb Little, who says to me, "we need to go - there will be another day." For the herd's sake, I hope that that will be true.
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