By Buzzy Hassrick, Cody Enterprise
September 21, 2016
The water-delivery system now in operation in the McCullough Peaks represents not just an impressive accomplishment, but also an exceptional cooperative effort.
“An incredible project” was the description offered by Delissa Minnick, BLM Cody field office manager. She spoke Sept. 9 at the third Mustang Rendezvous, the annual fundraiser for FOAL (Friends of a Legacy), the nonprofit advocacy group for the wild horses that roam the BLM range east of Cody.
“It’s a national benchmark in wild horse management,”Minnick said about the project, as compared to other mustang scenarios where groups are suing the BLM, the federal agency charged with wild horse management. She praised the partnership among nonprofits, industry and BLM.
“We work together. We get things done,” she added.
BLM leads the fertility-control program for the mustang herd, with FOAL’s support, which was discussed later in the evening.
Joining FOAL and BLM in the water project were Marathon Oil Co., National Wild Turkey Federation and Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust. They produced the Dry Creek Water Augment Project, which Minnick called “incredible.”
Fed over decades by oil-industry released water, she explained, Dry Creek had developed riparian areas and become vital to the various wildlife that inhabit the arid plains east of Cody. The creek started drying up in 2010, when new regulations made operators in Oregon Basin re-inject produced water instead of sending it downstream.
As mitigation, an engineering plan – “an amazing feat” – was devised to drill two wells and deliver water to two reservoirs, Minnick
said. BLM signed a Memorandum of Understanding with FOAL and Marathon to realize the plan in 2012.
Four years later, along with two wells, there are 40,000 feet of pipeline coursing 5.5 miles to two reservoirs and four wildlife-water guzzlers. The wells are designed to halt when they reach low-water levels.
“In April 2016, the second well went on line,” Minnick said. “All the reservoirs and guzzlers were filled this year, none too soon.”
While FOAL participated in the effort, the work helped not just mustangs.
“Horses and other wildlife benefit from the water we put there,” FOAL President Warren Murphy said of the cooperative effort. When the levels in Dry Creek started dropping, the project allowed “us to have a whole new water source.”
Following Minnick’s talk, another BLM official, Supervisory Range Management Specialist Tricia Hatle, discussed the fertility-control program used to manage the McCullough herd as she mixed Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) with an additive. When delivered by pneumatic dart to a mare, PZP prevents sperm implantation. Meanwhile volunteer sharp-shooter and FOAL board member, Ada Inbody, prepared the CO2 rifle with scope, accurate up to 70 yards.
“Ada holds the record at 69 yards,” Hatle said.
For the demonstration, Hatle used a range finder to measure 16 yards as the distance to a paper target, which was attached to straw bales – a little higher than a mare’s rump, she noted. In the field, ideally, the mare won’t realize that humans caused the sting of the deliveries.
“The best ones are when the mare thinks a stud bit her, and then they get mad at him,” Hatle said.
The injections into first-timers are followed 30 days later by a booster. Veteran mares targeted for treatment get only one shot per year.
The duo vaccinated 54 mares this year, Hatle reported. The 20 that didn’t get shots came off treatment, under a plan allowing every female to contribute her lineage to herd genetics and to experience one birth.
“Each mare will have one live foal,” she explained, toward the aim of maintaining a sustainable herd size. “Our goal is to do no more removals.”
Detailed records are kept about each mare, such as her name, color, birth date, treatments and treated hip, Inbody said after her bull’s-eye shot. In the field, the duo will retrieve the spent dart, designed to fall off after injection, to assure the vaccination worked, Hatle added. The dart can’t be reused.
One dose costs $24. When other expenses are included, the program costs $150 per mare. But, Hatle said, every foal not born and rounded up saves taxpayers the cost of $50,000 for maintaining one horse during its lifetime in a holding facility.
The PZP program “eliminates that horrendous expense,” guest Jerry Hager said.