Last month, I was on top of the mountain spending an idyllic few days with Cloud’s herd in Montana. I have been making the trip twice a year up the mountain in the summertime every year since 2004, and it is one of the highlights of my year.
On this beautiful summer day, I was sitting at the waterhole near Penn’s cabin, waiting for horses to come down to drink. This is usually one of the best opportunities to observe and photograph wild horse behavior, because I can watch the families interact and the bands interact with each other. More senior stallions get priority, bringing their families down to the water first, and staying as long as they wish, before they move out and another band comes down. Some foals fun and play as they run to the water, and many horses roll in it to cool off.
I was not alone this day – Ginger Kathrens and her intern Briana Foisa were there, and so was Tony Wengert. After at least 12 bands came down to drink, we started to wonder where Cloud and his family were. I joked that Cloud might be waiting to make an entrance, something is good at doing. Finally we could see Cloud up on the hill, running over to a bachelor stallion, but he and his family did not come to drink. We had been waiting about 1 1/2 hours for him to come down at this point.
Suddenly Jan Liverance came running down the hill to us. She told us that she had spoken to a family from Lovell, who had come up for the day, and they said they had seen a colt, running up and down behind a fence, unable to get to his mother, who was running up and down on the other side of the fence calling to him. The family asked Jan if she knew anyone who could help the colt. We all jumped up and stowed our gear quickly, and headed for our vehicles.
We were not sure where this colt might be, so our first thought was the FENCE , the hated fence erected by the Forest Service, that cuts the wild horses in the Pryor Mountains off from their historic summer and fall range. We arrived there, and there were no horses in sight. Luckily, the family drove up to us just then and explained where they had see the colt. We headed back down the road, and stopped just above a barbed wire fence “exclosure,” and sure enough, there was a foal trapped inside, and it was Cloud and Feldspar’s baby.
He trotted up and down the fence, calling to his mother. As we approached, I saw Cloud chasing bachelor stallions away from his band, and finally moving his band away to keep them together.
This fence was falling down in places, old rusted barbed wire, and it became clear how a foal could take a nap near it and possibly roll under it, and find himself trapped when he got up.
The priority at that point was to get the foal out and back to his family. It was a holiday weekend, the BLM office was closed, and there was no cell service in the area anyway, so it was up to us to help him. With no access to water or to his mother, the foal would most likely die. We moved very quietly and slowly, not wanting to panic him and cause him to run into the barbed wire, and injure himself. At this point he was bright eyed and active, and watched us as we worked.
Finally Ginger and Tony and Bree got the bottom strands of the barbed wire pulled on top of the T- posts in a long enough area so that the foal might go underneath it and out of the trap. We watched and waited for him to move out of the exclosure. Finally he saw the opening, and ran out. But his adventure was not over at this point.
Cloud’s family was nowhere in sight, as he had had to move his family away from the bachelor stallions harassing him. The colt ran to the first family he saw, who happened to be Garcia’s band. Garcia began chasing him, and we were terrified that Garcia might hurt or even kill him, and helpless to do anything about it. Finally he stopped, and the colt saw Morningstar’s band. This family was a familiar sight, as Cloud and Morningstar’s families had been spending quite a bit of time near each other this last year.
He ran up, realized it was not his family, and then moved on, determined to find Feldspar. As he disappeared down the hill, I headed to my vehicle, and Ginger, Bree and Jan followed the colt, and Tony headed to find Cloud’s band. By the time I drove down the road, they had watched him come out on the hill above the waterhole, spot his mother, and carefully pick his way down the rocks to her, and then immediately begin nursing. He was finally reunited safely with his family.
We were all incredibly relieved. But this was not the first time a foal had become trapped in this “exclosure” and will not be the last unless it is removed. When I was up there last week, I was disgusted to see it still there, despite letters to Jared Bybee and Jim Sparks.
What is an “exclosure?” According to the BLM it is a historical reference for monitoring range conditions – in other words, they fence off a portion of the range, keep the horses off it, and then can compare to the range that the horses are using to see how the horses impact the range. But they are not using this exclosure any more. They use small, portable “utilization cages” to do studies and monitor range conditions. They said they have no plans to dismantle and remove this dangerous range hazard, despite the fact that it is just above one of the two main waterholes on the mountain, directly in the path of horses traveling to water, and also despite the fact that if foals get caught in there, they can die. Older horses and foals could become entangled in the downed barbed wire, or could impale themselves on the t-posts. If the BLM is not using this exclosure, then they need to remove it, barbed wire, posts and all. Why not remove it NOW before any other horses are harmed, and while they have trucks and equipment up on top of the mountain anyway for the bait trapping?
Please write or call Jim Sparks, Montana Field Manager, email@example.com
Phone: 406-896-5013, fax 406-896-5281
and Jared Bybee, Wild Horse and Burro Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ask them to tear down and remove this dangerous wild horse hazard. If enough people speak up, perhaps they will listen.
*News Flash! I just heard that the Billings BLM is going to have this exclosure fence removed, starting this Thursday!*
Thank you so much all of you who emailed and called – your voices did make a difference!
I know the foal’s family was thanking you for saving their foal
Oh my heart was racing just reading this, thank God that someone saw this transpiring and that Ginger and friends were there to assist. Thank YOU so much
So so relieved, and so glad that there were wonderful people there to help, and that all turned out ok in the end.
Off to write to the people you mentioned – thank you for supplying their information.
e-mails sent to both of the address supplied, it seems like such a small thing to do to help, but many small voices make a lot of noise.
Thank you so very much for freeing this colt. I facebook everybody on this BLM situation. So frustrated and angry at horse roundups and removals.
Thankyou for rescuing this foal. Cloud has already lost
band members just a week or so ago. While reading this, I was
afraid that he would be loosing another. I will add my voice to
request the BLM to remove this hazard and uphold their job
to protect them from harm.
So glad you were there to help.Isn’t there some way the fence could just “fall down”.Or hang some rags on it to blow in the wind,might scare the horses away from it. Hope it can be fixed soon.
So glad to see a happy ending because you good folks weere there. Luckily he was a very strong foal, and smart, and lucky. Hate to think what would happen at another time. Thanks for the addresses also.
I’m so relieved that everything turned out ok .
E-mails sent to both of the address supplied.
Thanks to everyone who helped free the foal! If the BLM is not using this dangerous “exclosure”, & has no plans to resume using it, why not save them valuable time & money, & just get out there & tear it down ourselves?? Cut through all the barbed wire, remove the posts, & just get rid of it once & for all!! I’m ‘sure’ they’d thank us for doing this job for them, lol! And, to be sure, the wild horses would be very happy too! If the BLM is too lazy to tackle this, or too cheap, why would they care??
Just received word that the Billings BLM will be removing this exclosure fence starting this Thursday!
Thank you so very much to all of you who emailed and wrote – your voices did get heard and you DO make a difference.
What is wrong with just taking a pair of wire cutters and simply cut the wire and roll it up and throw it in the back of someones truck??? If the BLM won’t clean it up do them the favor and just do it yourselves. It’s just rusted junk remove it and dare them to do anything about it. I doubt they know it’s there. This is just common sense.
Great news and good job well done by all, but someone will be needed to confirm BLM does remove this fence. We can’t assume or trust them to follow through.
So fortunate that you were there to help this little one. So glad that you care. I hope the BLM will listen to you, and to the people who pay their salaries. The government is wasting too much money on this project, but I’m sure the cattlemen have a lot to do with it. The more the word gets out, the more the public will be watching the BLM.
Thank you again for all you do for these wonderful animals.
Thank you for saving the foal! Great work! 🙂 I hope Billings BLM takes that fence down.
any further confirmation available as to whether the BLM did follow thru with removing this fence? Can someone please advise on this ?
Carol, what a riveting story of the rescue! And great pictures too. If it wasn’t for you and the others things would have ended badly for this little beauty! Thank you for the action alert to get the BLM off its A#@ to do something!
i watched the doc channel @ first i couldnt but did it hurts me to see this so called blm n helicopter round up this beautiful horses / why do they do if they feel so bad r wont comment where the horses go after n trapment the goverment must stop these roundups / its a waist of r tax $$ 🙁 r voice can make difference
this is the first time I have seen this story in print and I never realized that Carol was able to take all these pictures while everyone was trying to help Mato. The story is related just as it happened….. it was so neat to read this story and bring back the memories of that day… it all happened so fast and was so awesome to see him reunited to his family ….. this is one of so many awesome stories from the Pryors . And Mato has grown up to be a handsome stallion and is still on the mountain and is one of my favorites that I look for when I visit the Pryors each year… Tony Wengert