Free Roaming Wyoming horses rounded up by BLM and sold to Canadian Slaughterhouse by Wyoming Livestock Board
No public comment period – no transparency – no opportunity for horse rescue organizations to save horses from a terrible fate.
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO. (The Cloud Foundation) – On March 24, The Cloud Foundation received an anonymous tip that BLM had rounded up and removed 41 free-roaming horses from public lands in northern Wyoming. Further investigation revealed that BLM conducted a helicopter roundup of the horses and turned them over to the Wyoming Livestock Board who sold the horses directly to the Canadian Bouvry Slaughterouse. The taxpayer-funded roundup was conducted with no notice of sale after the horses were impounded, giving no one the opportunity to step in and negotiate a deal to purchase any of the horses. Even Bighorn County Sheriff, Kenneth Blackburn, was surprised that he received no notification of the roundup, which was conducted in his jurisdiction. The horses were driven to Shelby, Montana, to the Bouvry-owned feedlot, the jumping off point to their Canadian slaughterhouse, the largest slaughterhouse in Canada.
“These were colorful wild horses I spotted several years ago while driving to the Pryor Mountains,” stated Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation. “They lived on what we’ve been told was a wild horse Herd Area southeast of the Pryors.” The small, remnant herd roamed a starkly beautiful landscape east of US 310 between Lovell and Greybull, WY. ”We stopped to admire them on March 10th on our way back to Colorado.” Kathrens adds. “The sight of these lovely, free-spirited animals, some with their newborn foals, against the backdrop of the snow-covered Bighorn Mountains was glorious. It’s hard to think about the horror they suffered just days later.”
On March 18, only eight days after Kathrens last spotted the horses, the BLM Field Office in Cody, WY. supervised their roundup and removal. A BLM spokesperson told a Cloud Foundation representative that the horses would be held at the Worland Livestock Auction for 10 days and then sold. However, later investigation revealed that the 41 horses rounded up by Cattoor Livestock Company on March 18-19 were delivered to the Worland Livestock Auction for brand inspection. Just a few hours later, once the brand inspection was completed, 37 horses were loaded onto a truck paid for by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and hauled to the Canadian border.
“According to Wyoming, Statute, Title 11, Chapter 24 entitled Agriculture, Livestock and Other Animals, ‘Estray horses rounded up must be held for not more than 10 days before going to auction,’” reported Paula Todd King, Communications Director for the Cloud Foundation. “These horses were rounded up and within hours they were on their way to the border. We found no notice announcing the roundup.”
The history of these horses is debatable. The BLM contends they are not wild, stating that they once belonged to an area rancher who died and his horses have only been in the area for 40 years. However, the Wild Horse and Burro Act (WHB Act) defines a wild horses as an “unclaimed, unbranded horse on federal lands in the United States.” Wyoming brand inspector, Frank Barrett, verified there were no brands of any kind on any of the animals.
Less than a mile from where Kathrens had been observing the horses is the boundary of the “zeroed out” Foster Gulch/Dry Creek Herd Area, designated for wild horse use after the passage of the WHB Act in 1971. “As they have done over a hundred times, the BLM decided not to manage wild horses in the area in 1987,” explains Kathrens. “If the horses have lived in the area for 40 years as BLM states, it is entirely possible that these horses were descendants of the herd eliminated from management in 1987.”
It is clear that these horses have survived for many years on their own, living in wild family bands, and thriving without human intervention. Conflicting reasons have been given for the timing of this BLM roundup when the horses had newborn foals. BLM indicated that private landowners in the area have complained about horses trespassing on their land. Sarah Beckwith, BLM spokesperson said that the horses were a threat to public safety – vehicles had killed two horses. However, after further investigation, TCF found that a train struck one horse 6-8 years ago, and a private vehicle struck another around 5 years ago. Jack Mononi, Supervisory Rangeland Management Specialist for Cody BLM, told Todd-King that if the Agency did not spend the federal dollars by the end of March, the funds would no longer be available.
Kathrens called the Bouvry Exports Shelby facility in an attempt to negotiate purchase of the 37 horses. The woman who answered the phone would not confirm that the horses had arrived in Shelby and told Kathrens that “these horses were rounded up and removed for slaughter and that is where they are going.” Kathrens offered to pay more than the going price and was told that this was not possible. “I was shaking when I got off the phone,” Kathrens said. “To think that this could be happening sickens me.”
Kim Michaels of Red Lodge, MT, purchased all that appears to have survived of the small herd, four tiny foals born this year. “We will do all we can to see that these babies not only survive but thrive as a fitting legacy to their lost freedom and their families,” said Michaels. The foals were rescued by Stacey Newby, co-owner of the Worland Livestock Auction, who fed and cared for the foals, bottle-feeding the tiniest, a 3-week-old filly. The foals are now in the care of equine veterinarian, Lisa Jacobson, in Colorado.
TCF continues to investigate the legality of what appears to be a carefully planned and executed operation at taxpayer expense. “Was it legal?” Kathrens questions. “It is clear to me that it was not moral and certainly inhumane. I do not believe that American taxpayers want their money spent to roundup and send horses to slaughter.”