Roundup Report: Cedar Mountain HMA, Sept 2022

The Bureau of Land Management roundup in the Cedar Mountain Herd Management Area (HMA) began on September 17, 2022. 

This HMA lies southwest of Salt Lake City in a region called Skull Valley. It is just to the west of, and adjacent to, the Onaqui Mountains HMA., but the horses in this area are far less known and more mysterious. The Cedar Mountain wild horses are truly wild, unaccustomed to human presence and strikingly beautiful. In fact, nearly 60 percent of these horses are pintos, duns or buckskins, making for one of the most colorful wild mustang herds in the West. 

AWHC

The Cedar Mountain HMA includes 211,593 acres, 97 percent of which is BLM land. The area also includes over 200,000 acres of Herd Area (HA) land where horses were originally found in 1971 when the law to protect them was passed, but which was eliminated as wild horse habitat in a 2003 land use plan amendment. More than 85,000 of the HA acres are Department of Defense-owned land that is part of the Dugway Proving Ground U.S. Army Base. 

The “appropriate” management level (AML) for the Cedar Mountain HMA is 190 to 390 horses, and the BLM's current population estimate is 938, including 2022 foals. Winter cattle grazing occurs in the HMA. The livestock permittee has been supportive of efforts to protect the horses, including piping water to an area where a spring had run dry this summer, an action that averted the need for an emergency removal. 

The BLM’s plan for the ongoing helicopter roundup includes capturing up to 700 wild horses and permanently removing 400 of them. The additional captured horses will be released to the HMA, with stallions returned immediately after the roundup concludes and mares returned after being treated and boosted with a fertility control vaccine. All horses targeted for permanent removal will be transported to the Axtell holding facility, located approximately 200 miles southeast of the HMA. Mares designated for fertility control treatment will also be sent to Axtell, where they will be processed and branded, treated with an initial dose of GonaCon and then boosted 30 days later. It is expected that the mares could spend two months in the holding facility before being returned to the range.

If the BLM's population estimates are correct, the post-roundup population in the Cedar Mountains will exceed 500 horses - above the high end of the AML. The BLM’s Population Control Plan for the Cedar Mountain HMA includes initiating a fertility control program without waiting to reduce the population to low AML and also authorizes a follow-up field darting program for untreated horses. In this way, the plan is a departure from the BLM’s common (and ineffective) approach of waiting to get to low AML before initiating a comprehensive darting program and focusing on roundups with no ongoing plan for fertility control implementation after the helicopters leave.

ROUNDUP REPORT

September 22, 2022: 119 wild horses were captured and there was one death after the BLM euthanized a 20-year-old stallion due to complete blindness in the right eye. 

Temp was in the 70s Cloudy in the morning. The afternoon was sunny.

Site #1 was a total of 9 horses. 40.56781° N, 112.88078° W Trap was completely visible as it was against the mountain. We were able to see trap holding and loading into trailers.

  • Run 1 + 2: 9 horses
  • Part 1: 735am A bigger group of 9 horses were seen. Group got split in the trap and horses jumped over jute. Three horses continued on into the trap which was 2 horses with 1 foal for a total of 3. The 6 horses that jumped the jute escaped and ran behind the mountain.
  • Part 2: We soon saw the 6 escaped horses again with the helicopter pursuing them but at some point behind a knoll a brown mare ran towards the hills leaving only 5 horses. The 5 were captured and pushed into trap. They were 2 pintos and 3 dark in the captured group. A pinto fell on this run and was down for a bit. Unknown about the outcome.
  • Run 3: A group of about 30 were being pushed in by the helicopter. The group then split towards the mountains and the helicopter had to pick a group to go after. The helicopter went behind the mountain and we couldn’t see anything. At this point, we observed a lost lone foal along the road on an open road. Foal walked in looking lost and went to trap on its own. We observed the first split group high along a mountain. This was a group of 13 horses high on the mountain. (This group had Little Bear and Mom). We then lost them behind the mountain and disappeared. The helicopter gave up and went towards another group. At 8:42 am the second group of 18 was targeted (this is still from same group in the morning). This group ran in a tight formation and seemed to be at least two bands together. The horses had two stallions that would not comply with the helicopter and they had the whole group at a standstill several times along the mountain. The group would have been exhausted from scaling the mountain back and forth for such a long time. The helicopter was very close — and again they would all stand still (exhausted but defiant!) while the helicopter hung over top of them. At one point the stallions went on the offense toward the helicopter. It was amazing to see and the horses finally decided to just run for it away from the trap site towards the mountains. The helicopter finally gave up and left. It was extremely defiant of them.

No horses were captured in this run minus the lost foal.

We were advised trap site would be moved. We were allowed to go North after the trap was torn down and meet up again at 11 am as the new trap was south.

Second trap location: Total count: 104 (double check) 40.51715° N, 112.88384° W. About a mile away. It is level with our observation point and within some junipers so it is very hard to see. The observation was obstructed by the landscape.

  • Run 1 at new trap: At 12:19 pm we heard the helicopter and 6 total horses were captured. They appeared to be dark in color though we had a very limited observation. We heard the helicopter flying for at least 20+ mins before we glimpsed it with horses. Helicopter landed at 1239.
  • Run 2: 12:58pm. Captured 8 including 2 foals. Could not see them enter the trap.
  • Run 3: 1:45 pm: We saw another band of 15 come in that included 2 foals. One foal was left behind and that was why man on horseback went out to go retrieve it. They roped foal to bring him in. BLM said the foal was ok but we weren’t able to observe this from our observation spot.
  • Run 4: 2:35 pm. Suddenly horses were at the trap. We couldn’t see anything then suddenly horses are the trap. Since we have no viewing we cannot gauge what direction they are coming from or how long they are being run. We were advised that 17 horses came in and of these were 4 foals.
  • Run 5: 4:09-4:22 pm Couldn’t see the helicopter but heard it for quite some time. We were eventually able to see the helicopter on the knoll above us and he flew with wide swaths which made us think he had more horses. Finally, several groups came into view that were walking or moving at a very slow pace. A foal was behind and walking. Clearly exhausted. There was a pair of dark horses that just stood there and let the helicopter hover near. Heard riders went out for those horses. Helicopters went back out to look for horses again. 22 total (2 foals and there were mare and foal that lagged.) Plus 2 extras that came in (so a total of 24)
  • Run 5: 455pm. Another group of 8 with 1 foal came in at a faster pace. All went into the trap.
  • Run 6. Heard it at 5:44 pm. 18 horses. No issues
  • Run 7: Heard it at 6:23 pm. 14 total horses (2 were foals) No issues. The trap location will be same place tomorrow. Called it at 6:30 pm

September 21, 2022: 21 wild horses were captured. 

There were 6 members of the public onsite today.

The temperature was in the 70s Cloudy day. Windier as the morning progressed. A sprinkling of rain as well. The observation was 3/4 mile away near a run-off pond. We were level with the ground. 40.56738° N, 113.09511° W

The trap was completely visible as it was against the mountain. We were able to see trap holding and loading into trailers.

Run 1: 8:16 am horses came into view. 5 of them. The helicopter pushed towards trap wings and a lone horse went around the mountain. He pushed one stallion for some time up and down the mountain but the horse evaded the helicopter and ran off out of sight. At 8:21 am the helicopter was behind the mountain for some time then finally came back with 4 horses. The lone stallion got away.

Run 2: 9:38 am There were 8 horses captured. All went in with no issues. Sheehan’s band (gray with 4 pintos) with Appaloosa horse plus several others were captured. Horses were pulled in from what seemed the mountains and out to the trap site.

Runs 3: 11:15 am There were 9 horses that all went in to trap though we later learned that 2 pintos were in the outskirts of the main group evaded capture. After the operations concluded, we found both of these horses wild on the range.

Called it at 11:25 am. The trap site will move.

To note: 30 some horses were spotted in the early morning and they moved too close to Dugway and the military did not authorize the BLM to allow the helicopter to fly so horses were not pursued further.

Temp holding: 3 more horses were added to the release pen today for a total of 11 (Sheehan + Appaloosa + unknown horse at this moment).

There no visible injuries; horses had hay and water; stallions were very unsettled. One stallion had the whole pen in one corner and would kick and fight anyone who came close; mares were also very close and moved as one unit the entire time we were there; foals seemed ok.

September 20, 2022: 14 wild horses were captured.

There were 5 members of the public onsite today. 

Temp was in the 70s Sunny day. The observation was 3/4 mile away and on a ridge overlooking the trap. Same space as yesterday. 40.41844° N, 112.95344° W. It started to get windier as the day moved on and the trap was somewhat hard to see due to the rolling landscape.

Horses seemed to all move well and no visible injuries from our vantage point.

  • Run 1: 8:10 am. The helicopter flew for about 20 mins before we saw horses. Only 2 horses came in. They ran fast once they got into the trap.
  • Run 2: 8:36 am. Pushed in 6 horses and 2 foals. The helicopter pushed in from the west but it needed to get them turned around to get them into the trap. The helicopter took them a long way around the knolls and up the hills until finally they were headed back toward the trap mouth. Seemed inefficient.
  • Run 3: 9:55 am. Three horses ran over the ridge from the west. The helicopter let the horses run in front of the trap then swung very wide overhead to push them through the hills. Seems like a very inefficient path when horses are coming in from the west. All three ran into the trap. Horses ran for quite a bit at a fast canter that bordered on gallop towards the end. The pilot kept its distance though.
  • Run 4: 10:15 am Little family of 3. Very new-looking baby. Again, the helicopter let the horses run in front of the trap and then swung very wide overhead to push them through the hills. Seems like a very inefficient path when horses are coming in from the west with little legs. All three ran into the trap. The foal ran so hard in the trap wings as the helicopter relentlessly hung overhead. Horses were at a fast pace the entire time we saw them though the pilot did not push hard.

The only time I observed the helicopter pushing too hard was in the trap wings towards the mouth of the trap. Pilot hung more overhead-- I felt necessary with the foal as it was so young and had run so far as it was. 11:51 am called it for the day.

The trap site will move tomorrow. 14 removed in total.

September 19, 2022: 56 wild horses were captured and there were no deaths reported.

There were 10 members of the public onsite today for the Cedar Mountain roundup in Utah. 

Temp was in the 70s/low 80s, sunny day. Very windy and we were told it impacted flying where there wasn’t protection.  The observation was 3/4 mile away and on a ridge overlooking the trap. The trap was somewhat hard to see due to the rolling landscape so it was easy to lose the horses on their approach.   The military was doing some maneuvers and broke the sound barriers during the middle of the day. Saw some jets flying as well.  Body scores from the distance seemed ok.  No visible injuries or distressed animals coming in.

Heard the helicopter at 7:40 am however didn’t see it. 

Run 1: 7:57 am came from behind the ridge.  6 horses which included 2 foals.  One of the foals deviated from the group and ran right into the jute on its own.  Toppled over and then picked himself right up. The foal was then roped and reunited with mom per Gus Warr as we couldn’t see due to the hills.  Horses came in at a fast canter. 

Run 2: 8:30 am. Large group. 30 horses. Came in from the northeast in a big clump.  Horses were running fast. Horses diverted near the trap wings and split around the knolls. Beautiful pinto led the group away and didn’t cooperate with the helicopter.  Lots of maneuvering by the helicopter for about 20 mins. Finally went in around 8:53 am.  There were 3 babies in this group.  (images included)

Run 3: 9:15 am. Came in from the northeast again. 6 horses in total. There were 2 foals and one looked very new. Maybe days old. Lisa Reid commented that the mare’s body condition was observed to be poor at the trap site when I asked about injuries/deaths later in the day. Horses came in at a canter.  (To note, a mare did appear very thin when viewed at holding.)

Run 4: 10:15 am. There were 6 and 2 were foals. Came in at a slow canter (seemed very tired). Horses did try to evade the trap but the helicopter pushed them in. 

Run 5:  We heard the helicopter but didn’t see it until 10:48 am. There were 3 horses that came in exhausted at a walk/trot.  One stumbled in the wings and got up.  The helicopter flew for a very long time as the horses were all around the mountain.  Heli stayed a good distance but was constantly behind them. 

Run 6: 11:53 am. There were 5 horses. 2 foals. Horses split between observation spot and ridge. Quite intense for a minute as the horses came close to observers and near the parking area.  Pinto in the group tore off and we were told they tried to find him but was unsuccessful.

Run 7: 1:00 pm: Very slow-moving.  There were 3 at a trot and seemed very tired. The horses missed the trap mouth and ran out and last the trap. The helicopter did five and they called it. 

September 18, 2022: 59 wild horses were captured.

September 17, 2022: 108 wild horses were captured.