The wild horses in the Onaqui Herd Management Area (HMA) are arguably the most visited and cherished mustang population in the country. The herd’s accessibility provides a unique experience for visitors and photographers who, in turn, share their photographs and stories of these iconic animals with an international audience.
In April, we launched a national campaign called ‘Save Onaqui’ with the goal to change the course of action for these beloved horses after the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announcedits intention to round up and remove 80% of them from our public lands.
We organized a rally in collaboration with the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group and over 150 people from all over the country came to raise their voice in support of the Onaqui wild mustangs and are our campaign to save them.
After the event concluded, we had a sit down meeting with officials from the BLM Utah office. Topics of discussion were the upcoming roundup and our request that BLM limit removals so that the most accessible herds, which are are part of a PZP fertility control program, could remain in place. AWHC and the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group also offered our resources to assist the BLM and its local partner, the Wild Horses of America Foundation, to expand the existing PZP program to achieve our mutual goal of eliminating roundups in this popular and high-profile HMA.
Instead we engaged the BLM in a dialogue aimed at truly creating change, and the BLM Utah team has been a willing partner in this conversation. For this roundup, we asked that the BLM leave the approximately 300 wild horses from the two distinct herds -- Davis Mountain and Simpson Springs -- that are approachable and whose members are individually known and identified. We asked that the BLM accept our offer of private resources to expand the existing fertility control program in order to vaccinate a sufficient number of mares to achieve zero population growth (births equal deaths) within 2 years and reductions in populations thereafter. We believe that this is the best way to achieve our mutual goal of eventually eliminating roundups in the Onaqui herd and ensuring that every Onaqui horse born wild gets to live and die wild and free.
The BLM ultimately made the decision to remove 200 wild horses, half of what its Environmental Assessment had analyzed. The agency has agreed to limit the roundup to horses in outlying areas and on the Dugway Proving Ground Army base, where they are, unforunately, not "authorized" to live. Later this month, we will be sending a darter to assist with vaccinating mares, and we have been working with Sam Couper of Onaqui Catalogue to create a comprehensive internal database for the program that tracks each individual horse, their unique markings and color, their social afilliations, their location, lineage, offspring and darting history.
Our hope is that the remaining wild horses of the Davis and Simpson herds can remain in the Onaqui HMA and be successfully and humanely managed with fertility control. We have committed our resources to helping the BLM and Wild Horses of America Foundation make this program a success.