The federal government will spend $410,000 to remove wild horses from Utah's public lands this year, enough to round up a total of 350 animals, a Bureau of Land Management official said Wednesday.
The wild horse roundups are scheduled for June and July around the state, though a smaller roundup will probably be held in March to remove wild horses from private land, said Larry Maxfield, the BLM resource manager in charge of Utah's wild horses.About 25 people attended a public hearing Wednesday night at the BLM's district office in West Valley City to comment on whether helicopters should be used in the roundup. All but three of those at the hearing, an annual requirement under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, supported the BLM's plan to use helicopters and trucks to catch and transport the wild animals.
One of the dissenters said it would be cheaper and more humane to allow private citizens to wrangle the horses. But under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, that would be illegal, Maxfield said.
"Water traps" - gated corrals set up around water holes - are the most humane of the methods the agency's contractors use to catch wild horses and burros. But the water trap method doesn't work in all of Utah's wild horse areas, and helicopters have been used routinely to herd the animals into traps since the roundups began, Maxfield said.
Ranchers at the hearing complained that the number of horses to be rounded up was not even equivalent to the herds' reproduction rates. Maxfield responded that the available funding limits the number of horses the agency can remove.
The horses will be taken to Delta, where they will be examined and treated by veterinarians before being put up for adoption.
The BLM has first choice of the horses. Because part of the agency's management charge is to ensure the health of the wild horse herds, it will return animals considered vital to the herd's health and genetic diversity.
Remaining horses will be put up for adoption in Utah.
Horses not adopted in Utah will be shipped to Colorado, New Mexico or eastern states for adoption. Horses over nine years of age or "unadoptables" will be shipped to animal sanctuaries in Oklahoma and South Dakota. Only very old or diseased animals will be destroyed, Maxfield said.
Since 1971, the BLM has captured 2,575 horses and 39 burros in Utah. Of those, 1,454 have been adopted locally, the BLM says.
The BLM will accept written comment for the next 30 days on the plan, Maxfield said. Comments should be mailed to the BLM, P.O. Box 45155, 324 S. State, Salt Lake, 84145-0155.