A chance to bring a mustang home
A chance to bring a mustang home

For the first time in about five years, local residents will have a shot at adopting wild horses from Disappointment Valley, commonly known as the Spring Creek Basin Herd.

The Bureau of Land Management will hold a public hearing next week to take comments on the gathering of about 90 wild horses from the Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area, located roughly 17 miles northeast of Dove Creek. According to Fran Ackley, Colorado Wild Horse and Burro program leader, gathered horses younger than 5 will be put up for adoption at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds on Aug. 27. The rest will be sent to the BLM’s wild horse facility in Cañon City, where they will be available for adoption or sent to sanctuaries.

Under provisions of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, wild horses on public lands must be managed on a regular basis. Although the animals are protected from poachers, they must periodically be culled to keep populations in check and guard against resource damage and overgrazing.

Ackley estimates there are currently about 100 adult horses in the 21,800-acre Spring Creek Management Area, as well as a couple dozen foals. However, the area, which must be managed for a variety of uses as well as erosion control and watershed management, only has a capacity of 35 to 60 adult horses, he said.

“Right now, we’re exceeding the carrying capacity of the land,” he said. “Thirty-five adults is our goal.”

Typically, horses are gathered from specific management areas every four years. The last gathering in Disappointment Valley was five years ago. However, the extended break has been advantageous for the herd, Ackley said.

“The horses have really improved since the last round-up,” he said. “The herd looks really good.”

According to Ackley, there are about 32,000 wild horses roaming public lands across the West, down from around 2 million at the turn of the 20th century. Each year, the foal crop typically adds another 6,500 animals to this number. As a result, the BLM must hold regular round ups just to keep up with the population boom.

“They keep busy out there,” he said. “We need to pull off 6,500 horses a year just to keep up with the current year’s reproduction.”

Ackley estimates about half of the gathered 90 horse will be put up for adoption in Cortez. He said he is hopeful for a 100-percent adoption rate. “One-hundred percent would be fantastic,” he said. “It always helps to have local ownership of the herd.”

The BLM will hold a public hearing on the use of helicopters and motor vehicles to gather wild horses from the Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area at 1 p.m. on Mon., Aug. 8, at the Dolores Public Lands Office, 100 N. 6th St., Dolores. After the hearing, there will be a public meeting to answer questions. Copies of an environmental assessment addressing the proposed gather will be available Aug. 8.

The Spring Creek wild horses will be transported to the Montezuma County Fairgrounds in Cortez, on Fri., Aug 26. From 1 to 5 p.m. that day, there will be wild horse training demonstrations by a horse trainer from the National Mustang Association, and general viewing of the animals will take place from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

The wild horse adoption begins with a viewing at 8 a.m., Sat., Aug. 27. The silent bid adoption takes place from 10 to 11:30 a.m. The minimum adoption fee starts at $125, although bids will be taken above that amount. Once an adopter has had his or her wild horse for 12 months, the BLM will transfer title to the adopter, upon documentation that a veterinarian or BLM official has inspected the horse and it is in good condition.

The public may also submit written comments up until Mon., Aug, 15, to Bob Ball, Dolores Public Lands Office, PO Box 210, Dolores, CO, 81323.

– Missy Votel

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