On Sunday I headed to Rock Springs, as I was told I would have an opportunity to view the release of the next group of wild mares back into Adobe Town with radio collars on their necks. If you have not been following my blogs on this you may be wondering incredulously “why would anyone do anything so cruel and dangerous to wild mares?”
Well read on and you will see.
Last week, the last mare to be released, Dove, who ran off with her family, had a radio collar that had slipped way down her neck, into what is NOT the correct position for the collar. Many people have been commenting on this, and I am still waiting for an explanation from USGS and the BLM about this. Here are the guidelines for the radio collars:
“The collar should rest just behind the ears of the equid and be tight enough so it does not slip down the neck, yet loose enough that it does not interfere with movement when the neck is flexed. The collar must fit snugly when the head is up to minimize rubbing. USGS researchers used 0-1 finger between collar and neck, depending on season collar is deployed to give consideration to the potential for weight gain. Other studies (e.g. Committee on Wild Horse and Burro Research 1991) have had problems with the fitting of collars due to animals gaining weight in spring, or losing weight in winter, causing collars to become too tight or too loose. In the USGS study, researchers did notice collars were looser or tighter at different times during the year, but it did not affect the behavior of collared mares or jennies, or cause sores or wounds on mares or jennies. Whenever collars are deployed they should be fitted by experienced personnel who can attach the collar quickly but proficiently to minimize handling stress on the animal.”
I am very concerned that this collar must be too loose, can slide around, and probably quite easily get caught in a hoof or a branch or a cliff or a fence. In my opinion, the University needs to immediately trigger the mechanism that they claim can remotely release the collar. I will keep you posted when and if I receive a response and explanation.
10 wild horses from Adobe Town are still at the Rock Springs facility. The longer they are there. the more likely they are to get diseases or become injured. They need to release these horses back into Adobe Town, where they were captured, immediately.
There were three mares in the trailer Monday morning as I followed the line of BLM and researchers out to the release sites. I was again the only member of the public along. We drove for over 2 1/2 hours before arriving at our first stop, which was in the northeast portion of Adobe Town, very near where the last mare, Dove had been released with her family.
This grey mare was older, and moved slowly out of the trailer, no panic for her, just curiosity as she looked back at us. I am calling her Dulcinea. She moved along familiarizing herself with where she was, for she had been trapped probably 15 miles from this area. Suddenly we see a family of wild horses moving along the hillside straight toward the road. She sees them, and lifts her head, then trots across the road toward them.
Clearly, she did not know them, but they went toward her then she ran in front of them.
Then we see the stallion run up to her, sniffing her. She must smell quite strange, with all the odors of the holding facility and the trailer on her, plus the strange collar. But he seems to accept her and they run back to the family together.
You might think that I would be happy about this. I was – it was far better than releasing her with no other horses in sight. But this was NOT her family, and that was made quite clear to me as we drove by them, and I saw her standing at quite a distance from this new family, as they interacted together. It was a very sad sight. Now she may become a very welcome member of this little family, but I think of what she has lost. Who knows how many years she was with the family she was captured with.
We moved on down the road, and finally stopped again about 14 miles away by road – as the crow flies or the wild horse runs it could have been closer as the road twisted and turned. The landscape in the area was dramatic, as much of Adobe Town in, but no time to stop to admire the scenery – I shot this out the window.
The second mare could not have been more different than Dulcinea. She came out of the trailer and looked back and whinnied at her friend who was still in the trailer. I do not know if they had been in the same family when they were captured, or just bonded in captivity, but she did not want to leave her. The contractor had to wave her away. And then she did not run off, but seemed unafraid and quite curious. Because she came so close I could see the sweat, some dried, some fresh, on her sides. Being in a moving trailer must be a terrifying thing to a wild horse, who was never gently and slowly introduced to it, as we do with our domestic horses.
I am calling her Rose, as she is a young rose-grey mare. She had a small cut next to her eye, but it did not seem very big. As she moved away, we got back into our cars.
In this next stretch, there were some bad parts to the road, and it was all new to me – we were in a part of Adobe Town I had never traveled to before, 2 hours from the highway in two different directions. There was a huge and stunning ridge rising up, I think it is Skull Rim. We went about 15 miles from where we dropped off Rose.
The last mare charged out of the trailer very assertively and moved at a stunning trot, tail flagged high. I am calling her Scarlett as she seems to have a fiery personality. There was no sign of other wild horses where we released her.
We turned around and started the long journey back to a main road. As we were going, before we got to where we had released Rose, there was a wild horse family on the left side of the road, not far away. We stopped, and I was struck by the very strong familial resemblance. The four sorrels had almost exactly the same blaze, and I was struck by how this illustrates a very important aspect of wild horses who live wild and free.
This family was very fortunate because it had not been broken up by a roundup or by the bait trapping of this study. The mare and her foal and foal and stallion looked so similar. Who knows how long this little family might have been together? Wild horses form close social bonds, and family members are not interchangeable, nor are they unimportant. This is where one of the greatest cruelties of this study lies, in the heedless breaking up of families, which cannot be undone. Of course, horses can travel great distances, but will they ever be a part of that family again? They have lost sisters, daughters, stallions, and the safety of that familiar and close family.
This study by the University of Wyoming purports to study the movement of wild horses in Adobe Town. How much more relevant and accurate would their observations be if they had not yanked these mares away from their families and randomly set them down some many many miles from where they were captured? They are disturbing the horses, and risking the lives of these mares with this dangerous radio collar study. They can die from getting tangled up with these collars. Direct observation is much more humane and more relevant. I am hoping that all these mares survive the two years they have to endure wearing these collars, and that I will see them with other horses this summer.
Link to Daily Gather Reports: