By Pat Caldwell
VALE – The U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to round up wild horses from two herds in Malheur County later this month.
Wild horses from Cold Springs and Hog Creek herd management areas will be part of the helicopter gathering set to begin Jan. 22.
The Cold Springs herd of about 175 horses is about 45 miles southwest of Vale.
The Hog Creek herd of about 60 horses is 20 miles south of Vale and five miles west of Harper.
The roundup is necessary because the two herds have grown too large for their range.
“Horse herds are managed according to an appropriate management level. We look at the range that they occupy and the impact they have on that range and establish a figure where the horse level does not damage the ecosystem,” said Larisa Bogardus, public affairs officer for the Lakeview BLM office.
The wild horse herds, if they grow too big, can damage rangelands by overgrazing and also drive out other wildlife.
Wild horses grazing in riparian areas such as streams and rivers can be especially destructive. The horses are attracted to riparian areas for obvious reasons – water and green grass – but their year-around presence doesn’t allow recovery from grazing.
When a section of range is overgrazed, native plants face more competition from invasive weeds.
“We would probably like to bring 40 or 50 off Cold Springs and on Hog Creek we will probably try to get 25 to 30 off that range,” said Bogardus.
Each round up will last about a week. The last round up was 107 horses from Cold Springs in 2016.
The helicopter, said Bogardus, will find the bands of horses and herd them toward a wide funnel made of mobile gates.
“The horses tend to avoid loud noises, so the helicopter tries to sort of nudge them around,” said Bogardus.
The funnel channels the horses to a set of holding pens where they are separated – stallions from mares and juvenile horses from adults – and then transported to a “more permanent holding pen,” said Bogardus.
“There they will have food and water and then typically the next day we ship them to the wild horse corrals in Burns,” said Bogardus.
While the horses are sorted, they are screened by a vet, said Bogardus.
“We make sure nursing foals are with their mothers,” said Bogardus.
At the BLM wild horse corrals in Burns the horses are put up for adoption. Some people go to the facility to adopt horses while others go online.
“If they are not adopted after a period – and that could be up two years – they are shipped to holding facilities in the Midwest where they live out their lives,” said Bogardus.
Each roundup could be a quick process or take a long time, said Borgardus.
“It is not just one group of horses that stay together all the time. They break into bands and separate. We may have to gather in several different locations because they are so dispersed across the landscape,” said Bogardus.
The BLM will host several public viewing days during the roundup. The public is invited to attend the roundups with a limit of 15 people each day.
Observers must check in at the Vale District BLM office. Then they will be led in a caravan to and from the gather site by the BLM. Four-wheel drive vehicles are required.
For more information, contact Bogardus at the BLM Lakeview District office at 541 947-6237 or at [email protected] to add your name to the viewing list.
Have a news tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-473-3377.
By Pat Caldwell