Bureau of Land Management harvests wild Mustangs and burros


WHEATLAND – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held a public adoption at their Wheatland Off Range Corral Nov. 5 from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. located at 1005 N. Wheatland Highway.

The BLM facility is not even six-months old yet and they already house and feed 1700 horses. The Off Range Corral has a capacity of 3500, so they are almost at 50% capacity.

The Wild Mustangs and burros that were harvested from the wild herds of Nevada, Wyoming and Utah are some of the animals that have a temporary home in Wheatland. In last Friday’s public auction, the Bureau of Land Management hoped to rehome between 25-35 untrained wild horses and burros for adoption. The only stipulation was to fill out an application, to be vetted including passing a site inspection within the next 12 months, bring a horse trailer and be willing to work with the BLM for the next year when you are on a kind of “owner probation.”

The gates opened at 8 a.m. and horses and burros were on display in the front corrals which were adopted on a first come, first served basis.

Wild horses and burros available for adoption have been removed from overpopulated herds roaming Western rangelands. As part of the efforts to find every horse and burro a good home, the BLM offers up to $1,000 to adopt an untrained animal.

Tyson Finnicum, 2008 Wheatland High School graduate is the public affairs specialist for the Bureau of Land Management’s high plains district and Chris Kellerman is the facility manager at the Wheatland Off Range Corral. Both of the men were there with about six other workers that were overseeing the adoption.

The Wheatland facility was created after putting out feelers for contract.

“We put it up for bid,” Finnicum said. “The contractor that won the bid was actually located here. The land is privately owned, so we did not purchase the property. We just contract with them to take care of the animals and provide a temporary place for them to be.”

The Mantle Ranch in Wheatland also works with the BLM, but not only gathers and houses the horses, but will train them also for a rehoming fee of $120.

“We’ve contracted with the Mantle ranch for 20 years,” Finnicum said. “Their facility is strictly training. They obviously have a smaller number of horses, they get the horses in, work with them. They can adopt out anything from halter broke to saddle broke horses. Whereas this is primarily a holding facility. We don’t do any training here apart from the socialization with people. It’s what we’re doing here today, just getting them used to people and used to being fed.”

The vetting process takes time, and during that time which lasts about a year, background checks are done, facility checks are done and if everything checks out, people can take ownership after the probationary period.

“This part of the adoption program, is that you essentially hold the horse in trust for a year,” Finnicum said. “That’s part of the adoption. And then through compliance checks, we’ll have somebody come out and take a look in the first three months, and then we’ll come back where a vet can sign off at the last compliance. We then send you $1,000 after you adopt. You actually have possession of the horse, but you don’t get title to the horse until the checks are done and the final compliance is complete.”

The money is figured as to what it the average cost to keep the horse for a year would be.

“It’s also an incentive to adopt out more animals,” Finnicum said. “It’s actually saving the government money by paying out the $1,000 because if we kept a horse in captivity for a year, it would cost almost $2,000 at this facility.”

“Also, those that adopt can’t have any felonies or animal cruelty in their past,” Kellerman said. “There is a whole application process.”

The application station was set up right on-site and information was exchanged.

“They need certain facility requirements at the place where the animal is going to be kept,” Finnicum said. “400 sq. ft. per animal, If it’s a two-year-old-plus horse, it has to be a six foot fence, if it’s a yearling it’s a five and a half foot fence and for the burro the requirement is a five foot enclosure.”

When you adopt a horse, it has been wormed and has had all shots. Each horse has been branded by the BLM and when you adopt, you will know where the horse was harvested from and how old the horse is. The horses are also gelded and no stallions are sold from the Wyoming facility.

The horses that are harvested will have an interesting change of environment. A team will go in and set up a trap site after the resource management plans have been completed for the area and the herd grazing there.

“When we do our resource management plans, according to the federal land policy and management act of 1976,” Finnicum said. “They guide the management of the BLM managed lands for20-30 years. Within those plans, we set the appropriate management levels which dictates how many horses the land can sustain. That includes water, feed, vegetation. If it’s being overgrazed, then there will be more horses gathered.”

The BLM doesn’t gather horses every year, but on a need only basis.

“We don’t gather every year,” Finnicum said. “Which is why we are gathering such a really large number this year. For the herd management area that we are gathering right now south of I-80 in Salt Wells, Wyoming, the target is around 1300 horses.”

The Nov. 5 event marks the final adoption of the year at the Wheatland facility. Following the event, the corrals will be temporarily closed to public events for the winter. The closure is in support of current wild horse gathering operations occurring in southwestern Wyoming. Dates for 2022 adoption events will be published once the adoption schedule is finalized.

“After this adoption we are going to shut down for the winter,” Finnicum said. “Especially when the gather is occurring and we are getting horses in. It’s a little tentative right now. We’re hoping for March, but we could always get two feet of snow that time of the year.

What about the horses that didn’t get adopted last Friday?

“We just keep feeding them and holding them here,” Kellerman said. “They could get shipped to another facility for another adoption, but that would be a location east or south of here.”

The life expectancy of the wild Mustangs can vary, according to Kellerman.

“In the wild we just gathered a stud that was 25 years old,” Kellerman said. “But in captivity they can live up to 30 or 35 years.

For more information about the events and locations, visit blm.gov/whb or contact the national information center at 866-468-7826 or wildhorse@blm.gov.