Herds Across the West: The Wild Horses of Swasey Mountain

Our blog series, Herds Across the West, examines wild horses and burros by herd, Herd Management Area (HMA) and state to provide a deeper understanding as we report on roundups and actions affecting each region.

Swasey Mountain Herd Management Area | Millard County, Utah

**Time-sensitive notice on Swasey Mountain HMA (February 7, 2020)**

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is seeking public comments on a roundup and removal plan for the Swasey Herd Management Area (HMA) in Utah. As a part of this proposed plan, BLM is considering some troubling fertility control alternatives, such as surgical sterilization; including ovariectomy via colpotomy which the agency has repeatedly proposed to study in Oregon and subsequently abandoned after our successful litigation.  

The goal of this BLM action is to use roundups and controversial fertility control tools to achieve the low AML of 60 wild horses and ultimately maintain a population within AML. This is all part of a lengthy plan to wipe out wild horses from this area in order to appease ranching interests that view these animals as competition for their cheap, taxpayer-subsidized livestock grazing on our public lands. 

Click here to take action to help us protect the Swasey wild horses in Utah.

The Swasey Mountain Herd Management Area is made up of about 120,000 acres of public and state lands. The BLM sets Appropriate Management Level (AML) at just 60 to 100 wild horses. For context, the low AML works out to one horse on every 2,000 acres.

Ranching interests in the area

  • While wild horses are eliminated from the area and threatened with inhumane experimentation, there are four active grazing allotments within the Swasey HMA: The Antelope, Sand Pass, Swasey Knoll, and Tatow allotments. 
  • There are a total of 7 livestock operators who are currently authorized to graze livestock in these allotments annually. 
  • The operators are authorized to use 13,954 Animal Unit Months (AUMs) of forage each year.

swasey hma rob hammer

Photo by Rob Hammer

Get your bearings

Via a couple of Utah’s defining landmarks, Swasey HMA lies northwest of Grand Staircase Escalante and southwest of Salt Lake City. 

With its peak rising to 9,678 feet, Swasey Mountain stands between the Sevier Desert and Tule Valley. Though it’s lesser known outside of Utah, it’s the highest peak in the House Range and a prominent landmark of the West Desert and the state at large.

The HMA encompasses Swasey's eastern bench, as Utah native and eco-tourist Robert Hammer writes, “essentially running from the Old US 6 & 50 northward to Weis Highway, a few miles beyond the Juab County border.”

Swasey Mountain wild horses google map

Swasey wild horses Utah

Photo by Rob Hammer

Landscape and wildlife

The Swasey area is home to several limestone caves and renowned fossil digging sites, and Bristlecone Pines -- the oldest living trees in the world -- can be found near the summit. Shadescale and ricegrass grow predominantly in the foothills, and there are natural springs where potable water can be sourced. Mule deer, antelope, and wild horses migrate with the seasons through the mountains and foothills.

Swasey wild horses

Photo by Rob Hammer

Defining characteristics

The Swasey wild horses tend to be light in color with grey coats dominantly dotting the landscape, though the herd does include bay, black, and brown -- plus buckskins and pintos. Their typical height is 14 to 14.5 hands (average for an American wild horse).

See them: Wild Horse Tourist knows how to get there

Robert Hammer gives details on finding a good wild horse viewing spot in the Swasey HMA -- right down to GPS coordinates. Visit his website here.