The Conger Herd Management Area (HMA) is made up of 151,506 acres in Utah. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) currently estimates 340-355 wild horses, including the 2021 foals. However, the BLM’s unscientifically low Appropriate Management Level (AML) for the HMA – the number of horses the agency claims that the range can sustainably support in conjunction with other animals and resource uses – is 40-80 horses.
In 2016, the BLM released a final decision to implement a “population control” research wild horse roundup for the Conger and Frisco HMAs as proposed by BLM’s Fillmore and Cedar City field offices and in cooperation with United States Geological Survey (USGS) Fort Collins Science Center and Colorado State University (CSU). Frisco was the “control” herd and Conger’s herd introduced some geldings for purposes of the study. Once the study was complete, the plan called for the removal of wild horses to achieve AML in both HMAs.
In 2020, the BLM removed 143 wild horses from the Frisco HMA where the AML is 30-60. Now, the agency’s attention is on Conger. However, the BLM’s most recent release notes that it is implementing this decision with the designation of an “emergency” action.
While the BLM now notes that there is currently not enough forage and/or water in the HMA to sustain the wild horse population, at the same time the BLM continues to authorize thousands of cattle and sheep to graze in the Complex. Specifically, the Skunk Springs, Ledger Canyon, Conger Spring, Buckskin, Painter Spring, Browns Wash, Crystal Peak, Red Rock, Beaver Lake, Frisco, and Wah Wah Lawson allotments are within the two HMAs. There are a total of 18 livestock operators who are currently authorized to graze livestock in these allotments annually from fall through spring and early summer. The operators are authorized to use 40,021 Animal Unit Months (AUMs) of forage each year.
It is time for the BLM to manage wild horse habitat for the wild horses.
This roundup will cost the taxpayers at least $255 thousand to just remove these 300 beloved horses and will bring along with it the lifetime cost of approximately $15 million to house these horses for the remainder of their lives in government holding corrals. On top of that, the taxpayer foots the bill for federally subsidized livestock grazing on public lands as well. The federal grazing fee remains at its historic low of $1.35 per animal per month. That’s a steep discount, thanks to the taxpayer subsidies that prop up this federal entitlement program. (Estimates indicate that the overall cost to taxpayers for the federal grazing program could be as much as $500 million annually.
Soon, you will be hard-pressed to find horses in this area. What will be left are tax-subsidized cows littering the land where iconic wild horses once roamed.
AWHC is on the ground to shed light on the BLM’s action.
Total Horses Gathered: 213
Total Deaths: 1
August 21, 2021:
Today was the final day of the Conger wild horse roundup and 9 horses were captured. There were no deaths.
August 20, 2021:
Today 16 wild horses were captured and there were no deaths.
August 19, 2021:
13 wild horses were rounded up today and there were no deaths.
August 18, 2021:
15 wild horses lost their freedom today. There were no deaths.
August 17, 2021
Today, AWHC’s field representative was the only member of the public onsite to bear witness to the Conger roundup and had an exceptional view of all trap operations.
There were 12 horses rounded up and four of those had to be roped by contractors on horseback.
The horses coming into the trap were at BCS of 3.
Notably, the contractors were trying to capture a family of horses, including a mare, with a radio collar, and her young foal. They knew the foal would not be able to keep up with the helicopter stampede and could be injured if they pushed the band towards the trap, so the contractors roped the foal and flew it back to the trap before chasing its dam.
The mare avoided the trap so the contract team chased her towards the trap area where a team of seven people on horseback waited to rope her. She was captured this way.
Later at the temporary holding, the mom and baby were reunited (see photos). The baby was confirmed to be nursing and the dam had her collar removed.
(Dam of the foal avoiding the trap)
(dam in the trap)
(mom and baby reunited)
August 16, 2021
Today, it was hot and smokey in the Conger HMA and the temperature varied quite a bit depending on your location.
The roundup operation pressed on with 27 horses captured. One horse and one foal were roped on horseback today. AWHC’s field rep was the only one who showed up to document the roundup and had an exceptional view of all trap operations.
The horses captured from the north end of the HMA looked thin with body scores of 2 to 3.
August 15, 2021
Today, 15 wild horses lost their freedom. AWHC’s field rep was the only one who showed up and had an exceptional view of all trap operations.
One horse and two foals were roped on horseback and one band off four scattered in all directions and made an escape. Throughout the day, the temperatures ranged depending on the location. The horses from the north end looked a bit thinner today with body scores of 2-3.
August 14, 2021
Today 47 wild horses were captured in the Conger roundup.
August 13, 2021
The Conger roundup continued today and 20 horses were captured. Today, AWHC's field representative was the only member of the public onsite to bear witness. He was fortunate enough to have a good view of the trap site and could see the horses were coming into the trap with body scores and 3 to 4s.
At the site, I saw one horse jump the trap and make a daring escape and an entire band managed to avoid capture.
One foal was left behind as its dam was stampeded into the trap. People on horseback roped it and brought the baby in.
It was heartbreaking to watch this beautiful band of wild horses make their last run.
August 12, 2021: Approximately 20 wild horses were captured from the Conger HMA. Five wild horses had to be roped to be brought in.
There were 4 members of the public onsite. The contractors captured 2 of the mares with GPS collars, that got removed at temp holding. We saw a horse jump trap and then a band escape breaking through the trap wings. A lot of these horses have been captured previously, making them more difficult to trap.
We walked around temp holding and had a good view of the trap site.
August 11, 2021: 19 wild horses from the Conger HMA lost their freedom today. The horses were stampeded by a new helicopter contractor, Rocking A Livestock. AWHC’s field representative was the only member of the public onsite and our location offered a good view of the trap site.
The BLM and USGS are hoping to capture about 12 mares that were fitted with GPS collars that could not be removed remotely after the research study ended. However, we did witness 2 collared mares escape the trap and avoid capture.
Horses are coming off the land in body conditions of 3 and 4’s on the Henneke body scale.