By Carol Walker, Wild Hoofbeats
On Wednesday morning last week I was in Rock Springs, waiting to hear if the weather was better and it had stopped snowing, and I heard that we were on for the release of the mares. These are mares rounded up and removed from Salt Wells Creek. Only 40 mares will be released, all treated with the birth control drug PZP, and only 39 stallions were released. 668 wild horses were rounded up, and most of them are at the Rock Springs Short Term Holding facility.
I followed the BLM out to where the mares had been held for the past 3 days in pens, and saw the two horse trailers pull out, heading through the Adobe Town Herd Area. I saw the snow crusted forms of the mares in the trailers, and could see their wide eyes. They had no idea what was going to happen to them.
We drove over two hours through snow covered roads, and the high this day was zero degrees. It seems as though we are driving through most of the Adobe Town Herd Area and I wonder when we are ever going to get to the location to release the mares.
Finally I see the horse trailers stop, and they have stopped ironically at the trap site used in the 2010 Adobe Town Roundup at Poison Buttes, where hundreds of wild horses lost their freedom. I always get a bad feeling when I am in this area.
As I am preparing to get out and set up to photograph the release of the mares, Dave Cattoor opens the first trailer door. Mares come spilling out and I run toward the trailer, and am told to stop. I keep going and try to get some photographs as the second trailer door is opened. The mares run out and head up the hill so they can get a good look around in this new area. These are mares rounded up in the Salt Wells Creek Herd Area, but they are being released in Adobe Town, at least 30 – 50 miles from where they had been rounded up.
As the mares disappear, I am determined to wait here until the Cattoors come back with the second load of mares. We wait 3 1/2 hours. I keep my vehicle running so I have heat, and I am assured that this time they will wait until I am set up to let these mares go. It is getting colder and darker, and I am hoping that they will arrive before the end of this very short winter day.
Finally the two trailers pull up, and I am on top of the hill waiting this time. They open the door of one of the trailers, and a lone red mare comes quietly out, looking around this unfamiliar world. Then another mare follows. I think that the mares are smart to look around and not rush off at a gallop, and imagine that the stallions probably did just that.
The mares trot up the hill, the group from the second trailer catching up to the first group as they pause and look over at me on the next hill. I am silently cheering them on, here in this strange new place, 1/2 hour before the sun goes down, temperatures falling fast.
Still there is no doubt in my mind that they are the lucky ones, who still have their freedom, and they have each other on this coldest night. As I drive back toward Rawlins in the twilight the temperature is now minus 11.
The next morning I head back to this area and the temperature gauge on my car says it is minus 16 when I first get there. I use my binoculars and look for horses. I do not see any sign of the mares, and I am sure they headed as far away from where they were released as possible – who can blame them?
I do see several wild families on a far ridge about 5 – 10 miles from where they were released, and I feel joy to see them on this frigid morning – there are still wild horses in this area. There is a palomino foal with a wooly coat, and he reminds me of my adopted mustang Mica.
As I drive I see black forms on a hill with Haystack Mountain in the background. As I drive closer, I see that it is cattle grazing on public land.
The Rock Springs Grazing Association is relentless in their drive to have ALL wild horses removed not only from private land but also from public land that they have leased, that they consider their own. These four herd areas are targeted: Salt Wells Creek, Adobe Town, Great Divide Basin and White Mountain. All four of these herd areas make up over 2 million acres, and almost half of the remaining wild horses in Wyoming live in these areas.
Only a few days after the mares are released, the Rock Springs BLM releases their Scoping Document for rounding up the wild horses horses in Great Divide Basin. It has only been 2 years since this herd was last rounded up.
You can comment on this plan for removal of the wild horses from Great Divide Basin until January 10, 2014.
Carol will be appearing on the CNN Jane Velez Mitchell Show to discuss the situation in Rock Springs at the Short Term Holding Facility on Tuesday, December 17 at 7:00pm Eastern Time.
My heartfelt thanks for the support and sponsorship of the Wild Horse Freedom Federation on this trip. http://wildhorsefreedomfederation.org/