Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wild Horses: McCullough Peaks Shake Up After the Roundup

Last week I made my third trip to the McCullough Peaks Herd Area in northern Wyoming since the roundup last October. The herd area is 110,000 acres. At the roundup, 92 horses were removed, leaving about 125. This is significantly below the number of 150 breeding age adults which is the minimum recommended by Dr. Gus Cothren to insure genetic viability of a herd. Complicating this issue, the herd had been in a experimental birth control program using 2 year PZP as birth control, leaving 15 mares permanently sterile. This further decreases the size of the breeding population and the possibility of maintaining genetic viability for this herd.

Like every other herd except the Pryor Mountain herd, at the roundup, horses were not kept in their family bands, and so mares were separated from youngsters, stallions from mares, and families that had been together for many years were torn apart. The stallions were released together, and the mares were released together. But nothing will ever be the same. This is especially true since the decision was made to skew the sex ratio in this herd, leaving more stallions than mares, instead of roughly 50-50. The idea is that less mares and more stallions means less babies, less population increase. But it totally discounts the effect on the family structure, the heart, soul and glue of the herd.

What I found all over the herd area was single bachelors, bachelors in twos and threes hanging out together, and circling the family bands like sharks.

Two of my favorite stallions, Warbonnet (aka Medicine Boy) and Washakie (aka Rerun)who both had large family bands before the roundup I found with no mares (Washakie) or one mare (Warbonnet).

Indigo, the stallion who fathered my two cremello colts, who had one of the largest bands in the area now had two mares and a foal, and signs of recent battles on his body.

I was happy to see the late season foal of last year, Tall Socks who was one of the few foals left in the area after the roundup. He is growing up to be a handsome and outgoing colt.

Surprisingly, Tecumseh, a young stallion who had only had a family band for 1 year before the roundup had his family intact.

I was wondering why Washkie, who clearly outweighs him by quite a bit had not stolen his band, or some other older, more experienced stallion. In fact one evening by the waterhole, Tecumseh seems unconcerned by the proximity of Washakie to his band.

As I watched over several days it occured to me that Tecumseh was staying close to his father Tucson's band, and Tucson spent a lot of energy chasing off bachelors who got too close. This alliance is clearly working for both stallions.

Another surpise I found was Signal, the bachelor stallion who had been such a troublemaker last year had muscled up and gotten a family for himself, including some of Warbonnet's mares. He even chased Warbonnet far from his band, a real change of status for the two stallions.

Were there more skirmishes than normal? I don't think so right now, but I cannot image that some of these senior band stallions who lost their mares will let the situation stand for too long. With more and more stallions reaching maturity and less mares to go around, this situation will only worsen. It is not good for mares and foals to be constantly in the middle of fighting stallions, nor is it good for mares to be chased and stolen by stallion after stallion.

This is another example of BLM's mismanagement of wild horses. This is a small herd, so why can't the contractor keep the horses in their family bands as they do in the Pryor Mountains? Why must they mess with the sex ration of the horses, without any prior field studies on the effects this manipulation might have, instead just contributing to the turmoil the horses went through at the roundup?

This is one of my favorite wild horse herds, and it was painful to see it is this fractured state. Of course the horses are beautiful, and wonderful to watch, and even Washakie has gotten fat in his new bachelor lifestyle, but as he looks out after the families that are not his, I am sad.

I remembered at the roundup in October 2009 one of Indigo's buckskin mares looking back over her shoulder as she was released, never to see her foal or yearling or sister again. It breaks my heart.

At the meeting with the BLM in Denver all of the wild horse advocates repeatedly called for a moratorium on roundups until an actual workable plan can be put in place to properly manage the wild horses. These requests still go unheeded, and more and more horses continue to lose their freedom this summer.
Please go here to sign the petition for a moratorium on wild horse roundups:

New YouTube video by Carol Walker of the McCullough Peaks Herd at:
Wild Horses: McCullough Peaks Shake Up After the RoundupSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


  1. I am once again choked up and the tears are free-flowing with this latest "report" on the McCullough herd. The beauty of this group just stuns me. What, if anything, is happening with Mrs Pickens? A relative sent me "Range" magazine, which has 2 or 3 articles with photos of emaciated horses supporting the removal of the "feral animals". He asked that I be open minded and try to understand the "other side". Well, the other side is hell and I cannot step into that quagmire. I wish I had more money, more land, more power...anything to help the bands of horses fighting to keep their freedom. May they keep galloping. SSP

  2. Carol... What a powerful post. I am beside myself with grief, burning grief. I am going to link this blog to mine. I hope you will place this post into an actual book. What you have here is true documentation, and the visuals bring it home. It is a complete picture. I hope we can find a way to have you present it. Please consider a slide show or video we can link to. This is really, really good work. For the horses, and for myself and all the help and sound advice you always so freely give me, THANK you. Nickers, Elyse Gardner

  3. I couldn't agree more, Anon! This is cruelty beyond belief. This is illegal for that alone.

    I think that's what bothers me the most about these BLM people - they seem to have no souls. The callus lack of any concern whether these beautiful, highly intelligent Beings live or die, suffer physically and mentally - they just DO NOT CARE one way or the other. I find this truly chilling.

  4. Carol, I hope you don't mind. I think this is important information to get out to everyone who may care. So, I posted a link to your blog on our Sun Pony Ranch Facebook page. I think our students should see this side of it. Thank you for all your good work. Ginger, Sun Pony Ranch

  5. Cindy Stewart, AZJuly 11, 2010 at 8:54 PM


    Thank you so much for putting your words to text. The information that you share here brings tears to my eyes. At the same time it fuels me and reminds me to not forget about the Wild Mustangs and to keep fighting for them.

    I have linked your article to my facebook so that more people can understand the plight of the Wild Mustangs. I feel that the majority of Americans don't even know there is a problem. There is a definite need to keep flooding the facts and information in any manner possible to as many people as possible.

    Thank you,

  6. Dear Carol,
    I came late to this post and photos. And I too am now crying with tears of anguish, despair. Such heartbreak for these beautiful, intelligent, animals. The family bands. The structure and organization of the herds is amazing. Why can't the BLM see this? But then again, I presume they do and do not care.

    To the BLM, wild horses are called "feral things." "Shitters." So this tells one in a few words how and why the BLM is so cruel and not caring. And this is an agency staffed with people designed to care for the wild horses? For their welfare!

    It is more than insanity and greed. I am at al loss for words to describe the mind-set, the reasoning, the inhumanity of those against the wild horses.

    For you see, to me, the wild horses are most human-like. Blessed to be able to have a social structure unlike other horses. But like all horses, courageous, intelligent, loving and dedicated to man. Imagine in battle, staying the course. Plowing the fields. Carrying wagons across America. Racing with all their hearts.

    I have heard that the horse is the most abused animal. For sure, with the DOI/BLM. We need to keep regrouping to keep up with the BLM's travesty to these magnificent angels. I know we will find a way to end this nightmare, even though it has been going on for decades and now accelerating. History shows it can happen. But it needs direction and organization.

    Thank you for your love and dedication to our American Beauties.