UW, BLM begin study on wild horse movement
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the University of Wyoming began a study to learn more about wild horse seasonal use and movements in the Adobe Town herd management area (HMA).
The study began with a bait-trap gather and radio collaring of up to 30 wild mares during February. No wild horses were removed during this nonhelicopter gather.
UW scientists Derek Scasta and Jeff Beck, both in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, are heading the research. Jake Hennig, a Ph.D. student in the department, also will participate. They will use the information gleaned from the radio collars to learn more about how wild horses interact with their environment. Specifically, the researchers will study migration patterns and herd movements in the HMA. The BLM says it will use the study results to ensure wild horse herds continue to thrive on healthy rangelands.
The Wyoming Department of Agriculture has provided $120,000 to start the research. The BLM also has contributed funding.
Bait-trapping involves setting up temporary corrals within the HMA to attract wild horses safely into the corral. When a certain number of horses has entered the pen, the gate to the corral is closed. Once the horses are gathered, trained personnel load and transport selected mares to the Rock Springs Wild Horse Holding Facility. After the horses arrived at the facility, staff from the U.S. Geological Survey placed collars with GPS tracking devices on the horses. The horses were be returned to the HMA.
The 10 mares selected to wear GPS collars are 5 years old or older. Ten more similar horses will be collared soon. All other wild horses gathered will be immediately released shortly after the selected mares are sorted and held for collaring. All mares will be released at or near the same location where they were gathered.
About three to five trap sites are required to distribute radio-collared mares throughout the entire HMA. Bait-trapping is an effective method for capturing small numbers of selected horses.
The number of people in the trap area will be limited to key personnel to ensure a successful and safe gather for the horses.
The BLM’s Rawlins Field Office released the decision record and finding of no significant impact for the Adobe Town HMA Wild Horse Movements and Habitat Selection Research Gather Environmental Assessment Nov. 9, 2016. The decision was to allow enough wild horses to be gathered by bait trapping, so up to 30 selected mares could be outfitted with GPS collars. The BLM will use two separate contractors to conduct the bait-trapping operations.
–University of Wyoming