Are There Still Wild Horses In Montana

Maria Garcia
• Monday, 26 October, 2020
• 34 min read

The Pryor Mountain herd, arguably the nation’s most famous wild horses, can be viewed in parts of Wyoming and Montana. Wild horses differ from domestic ones mainly because they are bred for survival in the wild countryside, with thicker, more sturdy limbs and a more compact build, says Don Glenn, wild horse specialist at the Wyoming State Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

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Glenn estimates Wyoming’s wild horse population to number about 6,000 animals, but says the appropriate management level is 3,100. As a result, horses are rounded up between mid-July and mid-November annually and shipped to various places in the country to be adopted.

This herd of 120-160 animals is reputed to be of Spanish ancestry, of which very few are in existence today. Horses have lived wild on Pryor Mountain straddling the Wyoming/ Montana border for a couple of centuries.

The range was later expanded to 38,000 acres, but the horses are truly free to roam; there are no fences to keep them from wandering into adjacent national forest land. The Pryor Mountain horses are the only wild horses in the state of Montana, and the herd usually numbers around 160.

The larger herd separates into smaller groups called “harems” with one stallion as the leader of the mares and younger horses. The Bureau of Land Management, which has jurisdiction over the range, asks that you stay more than 100 feet from the wild horses and never feed them.

Bring the herd into your own home by watching the 1995 documentary film Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies and its sequel, the 2003 documentary Cloud’s Legacy: The Wild Stallion Returns. Pryor Wild does guided, daylong trips to view and photograph the horses.

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Founded by longtime Lovell locals Steve and Nancy Cerro, Pryor Wild takes clients up Burnt Timber Ridge Road, which climbs 4,400 feet over 12 bumpy miles. This text on Pryor Mountain is excerpted from On the Road Yellowstone by Dina Missed.

The book is a joint partnership between us, National Park Trips Media, and Lyons Press. To reach the McCullough Peaks WSA from Cody, take U.S. Highway 14/16/20 east toward Grey bull for about 5 miles.

This well-graded road is marked by a large kiosk, and is directly across the highway from the Cody Archery Range. You will reach the southern border of the McCullough Peaks about 8 miles up Road 1212.

Opened in June 2016 by the Old ham family, in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management, it's home to 130 mustangs. Learn about the history of wild horses in North America and then ride on a large ATV that seats six, including the driver, to see the mustangs in the sanctuary.

To see wild horses in Wyoming, Glenn recommends visitors especially keep their eyes peeled when traveling the Red Desert region between Rock Springs and Rains. Also look for them in the Muskrat Basin-Rock Creek Mountain area stretching from Jeffrey City to the Gas Hills.

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Dr. D. Phillip Spangenberg, equine veterinarian at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, agreed, noting, “ don't exist anywhere else.” Bureau of Land Management map of the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range, showing BLM, Crow Nation, Forest Service, National Park Service, private, and state lands In 1900, there were two to five million feral horses in the United States.

However, their numbers were in steep decline as domestic cattle and sheep competed with them for resources. After the mid-1930s, their numbers fell even more drastically due to intervention by the U.S. government.

The United States Forest Service and the U.S. Grazing Service (the predecessor to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)) began to remove feral horses from federal land. The two agencies were concerned that there were too many horses on the land, which led to overgrazing and significant soil erosion.

Hunters were worried that as horses degraded range land, hunting species would also suffer. Nonetheless, both agencies responded to political pressure to act, and they began to remove hundreds of thousands of feral horses from federal property.

From 1934 to 1963, the Grazing Service (and from 1946 onward, the BLM) paid private contractors to kill mustangs and permitted their carcasses to be used for pet food. Ranchers were often permitted to round up any horses they wanted, and the Forest Service shot any remaining animals.

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Feral horse advocates were unhappy with the Forest Service and BLM's horse-culling procedures. They argued that herding horses from the air or by motorized vehicle (such as motorcycles) terrorized the animals and caused numerous and cruel injuries.

However, in 1961 President John F. Kennedy ordered the United States Department of the Interior to implement measures to stop soil erosion on federal land. Fearful that the horses were not going to be stabled but that the roundup was a prelude to slaughter of the entire herd, in 1966 Johnston began a letter-writing and public relations campaign against the BLM.

Johnston's goal was the establishment of a permanent refuge for the Pryor Mountains herd, but this was a daunting task. Hunting and ranching lobby groups had strongly opposed establishment of a feral horse refuge in Nevada, and accepted creation of the Nevada Wild Horse Range in 1962 only because it was within the Ellis Air Force Range area of 2,200,000 acres (8,900 km 2) (renamed Nevada Test and Training Range in 2001).

In 1965, Johnston founded the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (IS PMB), a nonprofit group dedicated to educating the public about the plight of feral horses and burros, and lobbied Congress and the executive branch for their protection on public land. Johnston and her group had several local allies as well.

BLM officials suspended the Gillette' lease in 1966 (the reason was inadequate fencing), forcing the family to give up their claim to many horses. Others who wanted to protect the herd included ranchers and the people of nearby Lovell, Wyoming, who not only considered the horses as part of Western heritage but also as a major tourist attraction.

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The IS PMB and its allies proved highly effective in raising public awareness of the issue and building political support for their efforts, and in 1966 BLM suspended its plans for the roundup. In response, Pryor Mountains horse advocates began pushing for a protected sanctuary for these animals.

The group contacted ABC News producer Hope Ryder and made her aware of BLM's plans. ABC News and BLM were “deluged” with mail protesting the removal of the horses after the segment aired.

On August 27, 1968, the Humane Society of the United States successfully sued to stop trapping of the horses. The political landscape shifted dramatically toward protection rather than removal of the horses.

On September 9, 1968, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall formally established a Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range of 33,600 acres (136 km 2). Montana's senior senator, Mike Mansfield, was so elated that he published Udall's order scrapping the BLM plan in the Congressional Record.

A boundary fence had been constructed between BLM and Forest Service land in the 1940s, which significantly affected feral horse distribution in the Pryor Mountains and restricted the horses to rang eland south, east, and west of the Custer National Forest. In October 1968, the Interior department established an Advisory Committee to report on the state of the herd, the status of forage on the range, and whether feral horses should continue to be kept on the range.

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The panel met a month later, and commissioned studies on whether branded runaway horses should be allowed to mix with the herd, whether BLM should build artificial watering holes to encourage the animals to range more widely, whether BLM should manage the herd's bloodlines by introducing stallions to the herds, and how many horses should live on the range. At its February 1969 meeting, the committee proved sharply divided over horse management issues.

BLM presented a study to the committee which attempted to show that horses were grazing the land so heavily that extensive erosion was taking place, but a private study found that the erosion was due to topography and drought and not because of the horses. Another study, conducted by a group which promoted hunting on the range, found that the horses were having a negative impact on edible plants in the Pryor Mountains and were having a detrimental impact on deer fawn survival.

But the committee discovered that this study had not been conducted in the Pryor Mountains but at another location. Another BLM study concluded that the Pryor Mountains horses had changed from grazers to browsers and were consuming large mountain mahogany shrub, a critical deer food source.

But an Advisory Committee analysis showed that the plants documented in the study were small mountain mahogany shrub variety, not the large mahogany shrub as claimed by BLM, and that the vegetation was in good shape, not deteriorated as the BLM claimed. In June 1969, the Committee rendered its unanimous opinion that forage on the range was in good shape, herd health was good, and that the range should be managed solely for the protection of wild horses.

The Advisory Committee did, however, recommend that the herd levels be reduced to no more than 100 horses ; that branded, deformed, old, and sick animals be culled from the herd; that BLM should create new watering holes to encourage the herd to forage more widely; that the range be fenced; and that roads be constructed in the range's interior to improve access for tourists. In 1970, BLM built a 20,000-US-gallon (76,000 l) catch-basin to help supply horses on the range with water.

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Under BLM policy, ranchers could release a branded mare into a herd and then, the following year, round up the band the mare ran with for slaughter or sale. In Nevada, state law permitted ranchers to round up any unbranded horses on their private land and slaughter or sell them.

Concerned about these practices, and about continuing horse hunts in unprotected areas, Johnston and her group began working to pass federal legislation to protect feral horses throughout the U.S. She was joined by a number of prominent people, including country music singer Judy Lynn, Gun smoke actress Amanda Blake, and New Hampshire Union Leader publisher and conservative William Lobe III. On December 18, 1971, President Richard M. Nixon signed into law the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (Africa), which made it a crime for anyone to harass or kill feral horses or burros on federal land, required the departments of the Interior and Agriculture to protect the animals, required studies of the animals' habits and habitats, and permitted public land to be set aside for their use.

In addition, the act required that feral horses be protected as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West”, and that management plans must “maintain a thriving natural ecological balance among wild horse populations, wildlife, livestock, and vegetation and to protect the range from the deterioration associated with overpopulation.” BLM was also permitted to close public land to livestock grazing to protect feral horse and burro habitat.

The Africa gave jurisdiction over challenges to BLM and Forest Service management of feral horses and how the act is implemented to the Department of the Interior's Board of Land Appeals. The Africa left range management policy unresolved in many respects, although it did specify that BLM and the Forest Service consult with state wildlife agencies.

In practice, BLM struggled to accommodate the needs of feral horses among its other priorities (which included livestock grazing, prevention of soil erosion, and accommodating big game hunting). In November 1971, BLM announced a major effort to save the Pryor Mountains herd from starvation after a poor summer growing season left vegetation stunted on the range.

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By 1974, the herd on the Pryor Mountains range had increased by 17 percent over the 1968 level. In 1973, BLM began a pilot project on the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range known as the Adopt-A-Horse initiative.

The program took advantage of provisions in the Africa to allow private “qualified” individuals to “adopt” as many horses as they wanted if they could show that they could provide adequate care for the animals. At the time, title to the horses remained permanently with the U.S. federal government.

(As of 2001, the Adopt-a-Horse program was the primary method of removing excess feral horses from BLM and Forest Service land.) In 1976, Congress included a provision in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act that permitted the humane use of helicopters in capturing free-roaming horses on federal land, and for the use of motorized vehicles in transporting them to corrals.

A mare attends to her foal on the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Refuge. While conceding that federal law protects the animals, these individuals also argued that economic needs (like livestock grazing) should take precedence over the horses.

However, horse advocates argued that horses were native to North America and eliminated by paleolithic human beings, and as a native wild animal, they should be protected as are the grizzly bear or bald eagle. To test which definition applied to feral horses, in 1974 the New Mexico Livestock Board seized 19 free-roaming feral burros that were preventing cattle from using a watering hole on federal land.

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The United States District Court for the District of New Mexico held that, under the Property Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Congress could regulate wild animals only to protect public land from damage. In Steppe v. New Mexico, 426 U.S. 529 (1976), the Supreme Court ruled that these free-roaming horses and burros were, in fact, wildlife, and it rejected New Mexico's narrow construction of the Property Clause.

In the early 1980s, ranching interests won a ruling from the Department of the Interior that feral horses who ate grass or drank water on lands which ranchers had leased had “taken” these resources from the ranchers in violation of the “takings clause” of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, in Mountain States Legal Foundation v. Model, 799 F.2d 1423 (1986), cert.

480 U.S. 951 (1987), the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit said that a wild animal was not an “agent” of the federal government and hence could not be found guilty of “taking” the ranchers' leased grass or water. BLM was accused of allowing too many adoptions to deplete feral horse populations on federal land.

Many private individuals were also accused of “adopting” horses only to sell them later for slaughter as pet food. Responding to these problems, in 1978 Congress passed the Public Rang elands Improvement Act (PRI).

The PRI limited adoptions to four horses a year per individual and allowed BLM to relinquish title to the horse after one year (during which inspections regarding the animal's treatment were to occur). The law also required BLM to inventory all feral horse herds, scientifically determine what constituted “appropriate” herd levels, and determine through a public process whether “excess” animals should be removed.

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Congress further amended PRI in 1978 to require updated herd counts. Pursuant to the 1978 amendments, BLM established 209 “herd management areas” (Has) where feral horses existed on federal land.

In January 1982, the director of BLM issued a moratorium on the destruction of excess adoptable animals. From 1988 to 2004, Congress also prohibited BLM from using any funds to destroy excess animals.

In November 1996, Congress passed the Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Management Act, which authorized BLM and the Forest Service to use helicopters and motor vehicles to round up and transport feral horses on public lands. In 2004, Republican Senator from Montana Conrad Burns inserted a rider into the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005 (a 3,000-page omnibus appropriations bill) which permitted BLM to sell excess animals more than 10 years old or which have been offered for adoption three times.

The amendment also required that excess, adoptable horses “shall be made available for sale without limitation.” Burns was reportedly acting on behalf of ranching interests, who wanted more of the horses to be removed from federal land.

Although the legislation (signed into law by President George W. Bush) was described by one media outlet as “undercut more than three decades of lobbying and legislative action aimed at protecting America's wild horses from slaughter”, as of May 2011 it has not been repealed. In early 2005, BLM discovered that some excess wild horses it had sold had been slaughtered.

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BLM suspended the sales program in April 2005 and resumed it in May 2005 after implementing new requirements to deter buyers from slaughtering the animals. In the fall of 2007, the last three horse slaughterhouses in the United States closed.

However, BLM procedures do not ban the export of wild horses for sale and slaughter outside the United States. In 2008, the Government Accountability Office concluded BLM was not in compliance with the 2004 amendment.

BLM had imposed limitations on the sale of excess horses to help ensure that they were not slaughtered (thus avoiding a public outcry). The Pryor Mountains are a 145,000-square-mile (380,000 km 2) region of Montana and Wyoming.

They were formed in the late Cretaceous and Early Tertiary period (about 70 to 60 million years ago) when magma welling up from below cracked a vast limestone plateau into four pieces and uplifted the northeast corner of each piece. The river flows along the fault line between the two mountain ranges, and has cut the Bighorn Canyon deep into the limestone.

The Crow Native American tribe called the mountains Baahpuuo Isawaxaawuua (“Hitting the Rock Mountains”), because of the large amount of flint found there (a type of rock which could be chipped into arrowheads and spear points). The mountains were named after Sergeant Nathaniel Hale Pryor, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, who vainly pursued horses stolen from the expedition in the area.

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Livestock grazing occurred on the range until the late 1960s, and the area historically was severely overgrazed. This created the limited forage conditions found on the range today.

The Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range is east of and adjacent to Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. The range consists primarily of alpine meadows, high desert, rocky ridges, and steep, semi-alpine slopes.

Historians and scientists speculate that feral horses have lived on and near Pryor Mountains since at least the late 1600s. Crow Indian tradition maintains that the horses were brought to the area by about 1725.

Non-Indian explorers found native people owning large numbers of horses as early as 1743. Thousands of feral horses lived in the area by the time American pioneers began settling near the Pryor Mountains in the late 1800s.

Stallions fight for control of a band, or “harem,” of mares on the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range. A single stallion can control a band of about six to eight mares. It was widely believed that the Pryor Mountains horses were direct descendants of the Barb horses brought to North America by Juan de Oñate's expedition in the early 1600s to explore America north of the Rio Grande.

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Their bloodlines may also include American Saddle bred, Canadian, Irish Hobby, and Tennessee Walking horses, although this was in dispute for many years. In 1992, equine geneticist Dr. E. Gus Cochran ran genetic studies on the herd, and concluded that their primary bloodline descends from Spanish Barbs.

Rather, they were linear descendants of the Spanish Barb, with some evidence of genetic similarity to light racing and riding breeds. The genetic tests also revealed that the Pryor Mountains horses carried a rare allele variant known as “Mac” that only Spanish horses brought to the Americas also carried.

The Pryor Mountains feral horse conforms to a very specific type. The horses weigh 700 to 800 pounds (320 to 360 kg) on the range, and more if raised in captivity.

The animals exhibit a wide range of solid colors, including bay, black, chestnut, dun, grille, and blue or red roan. The Pryor Mountains horse's body is heavy, with strong bones.

Manes and tails tend to be long, and the horse's winter coat is very heavy and often curly. The head is convex or straight (the “Roman nose” identified by horse breeders), with wide-set eyes, hooked ears, and a broad forehead that tapers well to the muzzle.

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The front teeth meet evenly, the upper lip is usually longer than the lower, and the nostrils are small and crescent shaped. The horse's shoulders are long and sloping, the withers are prominent, and chests are medium to narrow in width.

Pryor Mountain mustangs exhibit a natural pass gait. The horses are generally intelligent, strong, and sure-footed, and exhibit great stamina.

Like all feral horses, they generally avoid human contact, are distrustful, and are easily spooked. Trained Pryor Mountains horses have a calm temperament, and are alert on trails.

The horses form bands or “harems,” in which a single stallion mates with and controls a group of about six mares. BLM counts the herd visually about every four years by flying over the range, reporting on each animal found, and using statistical methods to correct for historic under counting and other problems.

In 1984, BLM set the maximum carrying capacity of the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range at 121 adult animals, and revised this to 95 adult animals in 1992. Management of the Pryor Mountains horse herd has focused on fulfilling the Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act's requirement that BLM maintain a “thriving natural ecological balance”.

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In general, BLM initially focused on how many horses the range could support and in maintaining conformity to the Pryor Mountains standard. However, with the development of DNA testing in the mid-1980s, the focus changed to maintaining the herd's genetic viability as well.

In 1988, researchers at Washington State University published a paper that raised concern that the herd exhibited a lack of genetic diversity, and could be suffering from genetic drift and/or a population bottleneck. BLM contracted with veterinarian E. Gus Cochran (then at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Kentucky, but now at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences) to take random genetic samples of the herd in 1994, 1997, and 2001.

Genetic diversity was above the mean for feral horse herds in the United States, and just below the mean for domesticated breeds. The BLM, however, interpreted these studies in 2009 to indicate that the genetic diversity of the Pryor Mountains herd is “well above” the mean for domestic breeds.

Cochran considered the herd to be in genetic equilibrium, although he cautioned that a minimum of 120 breeding-age animals should be kept on the range to maintain the genetic health of the herd. Research by biologists and veterinarians at Colorado State University, the University of Kentucky, and other colleges found that there is little inbreeding in bands, as the stallions tend to drive off colts when they are about two years old.

In 1990, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report highly critical of BLM's wild horse management programs. The GAO concluded that the BLM had little scientific basis for deciding what the range-carrying capacity was or how many horses should be removed to attain ecological equilibrium or restoration.

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Furthermore, the GAO found that the BLM had not reduced livestock grazing or engaged in range management activities to improve the carrying capacity of the land. For years, BLM had also allowed any horse to be adopted from the range.

Since adopters favored “pretty” horses, the genetics of the herd altered so that mostly bays and blacks were left on the range. Adoption procedures changed in 1994 so that now the original colors and patterns of the herd are returning.

That same year, the Pryor Mountains Mustang Breeders Association was formed to preserve the gene pool of the herd and establish a registry for Pryor Mountains horses in private hands. In order to be placed on the register, the horse must have a registered sire and dam, have a title issued either by BLM or the Tallest ranch, and have a certificate of blood typing from the Luck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky.

A “guzzler” (precipitation trap and storage tanks designed to provide water to wildlife) on the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Refuge In May 2009, after several long-term studies of the rang eland, BLM determined that the range's maximum carrying capacity was 179 feral horses. This assumed that all BLM land, as well as lands leased from other owners (public and private), would continue to be available to the animals, and that BLM would be able to manage the horses by using artificial watering sites to encourage the horses to use under grazed portions of the range.

BLM also said it would implement other range management techniques, including restoration of riparian vegetation to enhance existing watering holes, use of controlled burns to reduce the amount of dead wood and brush on the range, noxious weed control, better fencing, and other methods. BLM also proposed purchasing 1,467 acres (5.9 km 2) of land from the state of Montana, and another 632 acres (2.6 km 2) of private land, to add to the range.

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At the same time, BLM said it would reduce the herd from its existing 195 adults to 120. The goal was to temporarily remove feral horses from the refuge to allow the range to recover from the historic overgrazing caused by livestock, not because BLM believed there were too many horses on the range.

According to Jared By bee, BLM wild horse and burro specialist, grass cover on the range was at 18 percent of its historic average. Sixty percent of the remaining horses would be males, to reduce the rate of population growth.

Genetic diversity would be measured by visual observation of the herd's conformity to type (using a visual system developed by Dr. Spangenberg), and measures taken to improve genetic diversity if signs of inbreeding occurred. The Cloud Foundation and Front Range Equine Rescue, both feral horse advocacy groups, challenged the roundup in federal court.

A federal district court judge delayed the roundup three days to consider their request, but on September 2, 2009, rejected the injunction and allowed the roundup to proceed. BLM began its roundup of feral horses on the Pryor Mountains range in early September 2009.

Forty-six horses were put up for adoption, while the freed mares were given a contraceptive vaccine to help keep the herd population down. The Forest Service also closed a portion of the Custer National Forest to livestock grazing after about 40 feral horses moved into the area, but rounded these up as well and returned them to the range.

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A guzzler is a precipitation (usually rainwater) collection device that traps water in a storage tank (ranging in size from a few to several thousand gallons/liters). Five guzzlers were placed in under grazed areas to encourage the horses to better use this forage.

In the fall of 2010, BLM issued a set of draft strategy documents for operating its wild horse programs, and solicited public comment on the plans. After receiving numerous comments, BLM said in February 2011 it would quicken the pace at which it revised its roundup procedures, use of fertility control drugs, and wild horse and burro range land management.

The agency also commissioned a study from the National Academies of Science (NAS) on wild -horse management. Due for release in 2013, independent NAS experts will study a wide variety of issues, including the carrying capacity of wild horse and burro ranges, wild horse and burro population growth, and best practices in fertility control.

In September 2011, BLM announced it would begin working with the Humane Society of the United States to develop new practices in herd management and roundup, and increase its emphasis on adoptions and the use of drugs as fertility control to help better manage its wild horse herds. Tourism to the range increased steadily in the mid to late 2000s.

Panoramic image of the Pryor Mountains in Montana The range can be easily accessed via a paved road which parallels Bighorn Canyon, and which provides excellent viewing of the horses. The range can also be accessed from Laurel, Montana, by traveling south on U.S. Route 310 and taking the Forest Service gravel road to Dry head Overlook.

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Roads around the range tend to be impassable in wet weather or snow. Some range may be accessed via the Crow Indian Reservation.

Hiking on the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse range is good, but there are no maintained or marked trails and (as of 2000) no guidebooks to the area. Among the species found there are Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, black bears, blue grouse, cougars, elk, gray wolves, mule deer, ring-necked pheasant, and sage grouse.

This herd was the subject of the 1995 documentary film Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies and its sequel, the 2003 documentary film Cloud's Legacy: The Wild Stallion Returns. There is only one truly wild subspecies extant in the world today, the Przewalski's horse of Mongolia.

All horses that were once native to North America died out between 13,000 and 9,000 years ago. A Federal Court Seeks the Answer,” Los Angeles Times, June 5, 2011, accessed 2011-06-06.

There is ongoing debate about terminology and the significance of genetic differences between feral and wild horses. It was not the first refuge established solely for the protection of wild horses, as the range also served the armed forces.

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^ BLM initially ignored whether the Adopt-a-Horse program continued to permit private individuals to adopt horses with the intent to sell or slaughter them. In March 1987, the Animal Protection Institute sued the Department of the Interior, arguing that BLM was turning a blind eye to the intent to slaughter.

The decision was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Animal Protection Institute v. Model, 860 F.2d 920 (1988). In 1997, the Animal Protection Institute and BLM signed an out-of-court settlement under which BLM would require individuals to sign an affidavit stating they had no intent to sell the animal for slaughter or for use as rodeo stock.

BLM also agreed to no longer permit adoption by proxy or power of attorney. However, the district court refused to enforce this settlement in 2000, leaving the issue unresolved.

^ Wilderness Study Areas, National Landscape Conservation System, Bureau of Land Management, March 11, 2010. ^ In January 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that a 1949 Texas law banned the possession, transfer, or sale of horse meat.

In September 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld a similar ban in Illinois, causing the plant located in that state to close. ^ The concern was that large amounts of dead wood and brush could cause a fire so severe it would extensively damage the forage on the range.

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Erosion from soil left bare from the fire would also significantly degrade water sources. In May 2009, both agencies proposed a separate analysis to build a record that would support lifting the burn ban and allow implementation of prescribed, controlled burns to improve the range.

^ Wild Horse Roundup in Pryor Mountains to Begin.” ^ For general information on guzzlers, see: Mitchell, Dean; Larsen, Randy; and Rhymer, Danny.

“BLM Eyes Greater Cooperation With HSS on Wild -Horse Gather.” Environmental Assessment MT-10-08-24 and Herd Management Area Plan.

Clawson, Roger and Chandra, Katherine A. Billings: The City and the People. Genetic Analysis of the Pryor Mountains MA, MT.

Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs: The Life of Velma Johnston. Story's Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America.

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Glover, Kristen H. “Managing Wild Horses on Public Lands: Congressional Action and Agency Response.” Cherry Hill's Housekeeping Almanac: The Essential Month-by-Month Guide for Everyone Who Keeps or Cares for Horses.

Kirkpatrick, Jay F. and Gilly, Mary S. “Transferring and Hemoglobin Polymorphism in Feral Horses (Equus Catullus).” Among Wild Horses : A Portrait of the Pryor Mountain Mustangs.

Protecting All Animals: A Fifty-Year History of the Humane Society of the United States. The park is noted for its wildlife including bighorn sheep, mule deer, songbirds, waterfowl, bald eagles, and falcons, as well as five wild horses.

To protect wildlife viewing opportunities, pets are not permitted on the island. Rare and endangered plant species have also been found on its Palouse-like Prairie grasslands.

The island's scenic shoreline is a favorite of hikers, boaters, swimmers and sailboat enthusiasts. Visitors are asked to protect and respect the park to ensure conservation of its natural character.

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Social distancing is still required per the Governor's statewide directive to reduce spread of COVID-19. Contact the Park Manager to discuss special use permit requirements.

It is a violation of park regulations to feed, pet or intentionally approach within 100 feet any wildlife including wild horses. To protect wildlife viewing opportunities, pets are not allowed in the park.

Wild Horses in Montana & the Dakotas KBR Wild Horse and Burro Information Sheet Wildfires IN MONTANA AND THE DAKOTAS (Information and graphics courtesy of BLM, Billings Resource Area Office) The Wild Horse and Burro Program in Montana and the Dakotas has two primary goals; the management of the wild horse herd in the Pryor Mountains and the adoption of excess animals from the Pryor's and other herd management areas in the western states.

There will be satellite adoption events as long as there is strong public demand for wild horses and burros. These animals are reputed to be of Spanish ancestry, as evidenced by genetic studies and blood typing efforts done over the past 5 years.

Therefore, the act provides for the removal of excess animals by the BLM or its contractors, and placement with qualified adopters. There is also a large demand for burros, which are quite effective in defending sheep from the predation of coyotes and domestic dogs.

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Local and national groups often get involved in issues surrounding Pryor Mountain horses. For additional information, contact Linda Coates-Markle, Wild Horse and Burro Specialist.

This is a full day trip up to the Pryor Mountains. We left a 9:00 AM and drove 2.5 hours, 44 miles up to the top of the mountain were we were blessed with seeing quite a few horses (50-70) each in their bands.

Steve and Nancy Cerro are excellent guides and wonderful people who care deeply about these beautiful wild mustangs. Steve was a great guide who took us up the mountain to see the wild mustangs.

Steve told us how the mustangs react to each other. My husband is handicapped and almost didn’t go because he feared being a burden.

The other person on our tour was wheelchair bound and I watched as this incredible man pushed a wheelchair across a rocky meadow, so she could see the horses drink from a stream. He was always smiling (even managed my car sickness with a grin) so knowledgeable and made the day a special one.

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Every once in a while you come across someone who reminds you there are wonderful people in this world. Those of us lucky enough to call Montana home love it for many reasons, but mainly we adore it because there ’s so much breathtaking natural scenery to explore.

And if you’ve never been to Wild Horse Island State Park, perhaps it’s time to pay it a visit. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date.

If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here: onlyinyourstate.com/nominate The island has been a landmark since the Salish-Kootenai Indians were reported to have used it to pasture horses to keep them from being stolen by other tribes.

Hikers love Wild Horse Island because the trails are so scenic. Jessica Wick is a writer and travel enthusiast who loves exploring new places, meeting new people and, of course, beautiful Big Sky Country and every part of Washington State.

The Outer Banks is home to several herds that are descended from Spanish mustangs brought over to North America by the conquistadors about 500 years ago. Previously numbering in the thousands, the size of these herds has dwindled as erosion and human development have reduced their grazing land.

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The easiest place to see some of these wild horses is at the north end of Crack Island, where the National Park Service maintains a small herd of “banker ponies” in a large fenced-in range. East of Reno, a vast network of hiking trails will likely bring you up close to some of these animals, especially if you find one of their customary watering holes.

Turner/Shutterstock Montana and Wyoming are excellent places to appreciate the wide open spaces and natural beauty of North America, including that of some unique wild horses. These horses live mostly in the Pryor Mountains, a range that extends from Billings, Montana, in the north to Lovell, Wyoming, in the south.

President Trump, however, has nominated Seventh Circuit federal appellate Judge Amy Cohen Barrett to succeed Ginsberg. This could include a May 2020 order excluding wild horse advocates from visiting the estimated 37,000 wild horses who have been removed from Bureau of Land Management property and are now being boarded by private contractors at what are called Public Off-Range Pastures.

Pendle became the fifth person to lead the bureau on a temporary basis after the departure of director Neil Bronze less than a year into the Trump administration.” Elaborated Brown, “The BLM “regulates activities ranging from mining and oil extraction to livestock grazing and recreation.

Pendle’s brazen scapegoating of wild horses for environmental damage caused by livestock grazing and other commercial industries drew scorn from conservationists and wild horse advocates alike.” But while working to ease restrictions on the sale of wild horses who may be trucked to slaughter in Canada and Mexico to serve what horse meat export markets still exist, Pendle downplayed the increasingly dim prospect of reviving horse slaughter for human consumption within the U.S.

Returning the U.S. wild horse population to the officially estimated sustainable level of about 27,000, without mass roundups for slaughter, would take 15 years and $5 billion of investment, acting Bureau of Land Management director William Perry Pendle told Scott Sonnet of Associated Press on October 23, 2019. Pendle expanded upon his remarks of October 12, 2019, when, concluding a plenary address to nearly 700 members of the Society of Environmental Journalists in Fort Collins, Colorado, he said, “I’ll get really in the weeds.

Pendle avoided discussion of global warming, oil and gas leasing, mining, water rights, and severely weakened enforcement of the Endangered Species Act under the Trump presidential administration, among a long list of other urgent topics. As pink tendrils of morning sun climb over an alpine meadow on East Pryor Mountain, the agitated horse, Two Boots, wants his harem of mares backs from Lakota, an upstart stallion who stole his herd the evening before.

A new day has dawned, and Two Boots emerges from the timber, arching his neck, nostrils flaring, ready to rumble. On the prowl, the black stallion crosses the meadow, whinnying sharply for his abducted mares and for Lakota to answer.

All is silent except for meadow larks and the muffled thunk of hooves moving across earth and rock. Miles above cactus and juniper in the gritty red desert south of Billings, the spirit of the West thunders across high mountain meadows.

Brushing the sky at 8,600 feet, the Pryor Mountain wild horses thrive in a Garden of Eden blanketed with the deep purples of shooting stars, lupine and forget-me-nots. Like a plateau out of time, their home atop East Pryor Mountain is a giant pedestal holding to the heavens the remnant of a lost breed.

They live by savvy and spirit, forging an existence in country so rugged and remote that would-be human captors did not bother. “They are like a bunch of ruffians who roll into town to harass the stallions,” said Jill Fanning, range wildlife technician with the Bureau of Land Management.

“Some days it’s like a soap opera up here, with horse herds changing, and stallion fights.” They are a genetic sample of Old World Spanish horses brought to North America with the conquistadors.

Their heads have a slightly rounded profile, identified by horse breeders as a “Roman nose.” High-stepping knee action helps them navigate the unforgiving terrain as they migrate from desert to mountaintop with the seasons. Spangenberg’s Pryor horse research has helped legitimize the unique animals with the muscle of science.

But last month, the herd was abruptly thinned when five horses --two stallions, two mares and a foal--were killed by a bolt of lightning. Winter grazing grounds, where the desert meets the base of East Pryor, covers a territory named “Bad Pass Highway,” once a route for Indians passing through the Yellowstone Basin--but a path white men found inhospitable, Left hand said.

“It’s a very special place to Indian families, where we can trace back several generations to where their grandparents lived and look for leadership from the great spirits.” Although the origins of the herd are documented in Lewis and Clark’s journal, their history is alive in Crow memory, said Hill and Left hand.

Believing the horses were nothing more than unattended and unwanted ranch animals eroding grazing leases, the BLM announced a roundup to sell them to pet-food manufacturers. Communities on the Montana -Wyoming border became so enraged by the BLM’s plan that they formed the Pryor Mountain Mustang Assn., which directly challenged the government.

When the roundup was scheduled in 1968, the Humane Society of the United States stepped into the fray and asked a federal judge to stop the hunt. The public outcry pushed then-Interior Secretary Stewart Udall to put an end to the matter by declaring the area the Pryor Mountain National Wild Horse Range.

Three years later, in 1971, Congress passed the Wild -Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act, defining the wild equines of the West as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit.” Today the animals are protected from capture, branding, harassment or killing. “Humans only understand them as a domestic submissive species, but they have a highly structured social order.

In addition to the scientists, wildlife filmmaker Ginger Athens also has been tracking and filming the horses for the last four years. With a Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range Website, film documentaries and national exposure in prestigious magazines--the Smithsonian and National Geographic--managing the range’s human visitors has become a dilemma.

The BLM claims that this is triple the number of horses the land area can support. Near Grand Junction, the Book Cliffs are an intrinsic part of the landscape and a wonderful place to take a day trip.

Photo courtesy of Visit Grand Junction The Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse area is home to around 90 to 150 wild horses. It’s one of only three ranges in the United States set aside specifically to protect wild horses, but seeing the horses is not commonplace.

When people do see them it tends to be from afar, although patience will pay off and the tip is to go early morning or in the evening for the best chance of seeing wild horses here. Between Norwood and Dove Creek, west of the San Juan National Forest, there are 21,000-acres where up to 65 wild horses roam.

Photo by Alta Wolf and courtesy of SWAT This is the wild horse area I am most familiar with because we recently visited while on a trip to Craig. Photo by Alta Wolf and courtesy of SWAT There are nearly 155,000-acres of land here and an estimated 700 horses.

We visited in early May when the ground was spongy and wild grass grew rampantly. It is wise to visit Sand Wash Basin in a four-wheel-drive as the roads are rough and it’s unlikely that a two-wheel sedan would have the proper clearance for parts of the drive.

Photo by Alta Wolf and courtesy of SWAT The day after our visit, I met volunteers with the Sand Wash Basin Wild Horse Advocacy Team (SWAT), a range support program of the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary. This organization works with a variety of agencies with the goal of preserving the horses of Sand Wash Basin.

This area is southwest of the Sand Wash Basin and the nearest town is Meeker. Deer wood Ranch Wild Horse Sanctuary is located west of Laramie, Wyoming.

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