Wild horses get used to life on (semi-) open range

Wild horses

ENNIS — A herd of 710 wild horses relocated to Montana is settling into its new quarters as workers erect new fences meant to reassure neighbors that their wandering days are over.

Gates have been opened at the Spanish Q Ranch near Ennis in western Montana, to allow the geldings loose in the southern range, one of four pasture areas that average around 2,500 acres each.

Bureau of Land Management officials monitoring the herd’s new home say that the sterilized male horses were skittish at first about straying too far from the winter pasture where they’d been held since March.

Pat Fosse, a BLM specialist, says that the two-year-olds among the group had never been free, having been born in captivity, so they had to get accustomed to life on the open range.

“They’d hang out in little clusters nearby and run back if they were panicked. They were like homing pigeons to the winter pasture,” Fosse said. “The 2-year-olds have never been free so they don’t quite know how to be horses.”

The Spanish Q has a 10-year contract with the BLM to house the horses at a cost of $1.36 per animal per day, far less than the average $5.50 cost at short-term facilities in Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Oklahoma. The ranch is holding horses captured to control population levels on public land — or born to captured mares — and have not been adopted.

Through appeals, some have sought to block the plan, in part on grounds that fencing won’t be adequate to keep them from roaming.

Among the foes is NBC chief executive Steven Burke, owner of the Valley Garden Ranch, which is bordered on three sides by the Spanish Q. Bozeman attorney James Goetz told the Chronicle Burke was concerned about property damage and public relations problems if the horses ended up starving.

Consequently, new fencing is being constructed.

Karen Rice, who owns the Spanish Q with her husband, Greg, said those who opposed the long-term pasture represent just a vocal few who were out-of-state landowners.

“A ton of local ranchers support us,” she said. “The appeal is not about the horses. Burke tried to lease our land just as we signed the contract with the BLM.”

The BLM estimates there are more than 37,000 wild horses and burros roaming BLM rangeland in 10 western states. The agency estimates that number is 11,000 more than can adequately coexist with other resources, so periodically the agency rounds up animals and houses them in short-term and long-term facilities. About 49,000 horses live in such facilities.

About Land & Livestock Interntional, Inc.

Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
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4 Responses to Wild horses get used to life on (semi-) open range

  1. Rietha Crafford says:

    Good for you to keep the wild horses wild and in their own area. Thumbs up to you all


    • Rietha, I assume that you are addressing the owners of the Spanish Q ranch. Most of “us” consider the damned things as vermin–they are destroying vast areas of the American West.

      But, as private property owners, the Spanish Q ranch are free to use their property any way they choose–even if it is for nonsense.


      • Donna says:

        The wild horses were there long before the cattle and obviously your looking at the financial gains of the beef industry versus the preservation of an American icon that was instrumental in the building of the American west! As far as your opinion of these horses “destroying” the American West, I disagree! This whole controversy is about the horses infringing on the cattle’s grazing areas! As I stated previously, the horses were there first! Leave them alone! Otherwise, agencies that keep interfering will eventually put them into extinction! But that’s what their end goal is anyway! When man interfers with mother nature he usually succeeds in screwing things up! I commend the Rice’s for helping save these beautiful gentle animals from those agencies such as yours that are so narrow minded!


  2. Donna destroyed her credibility with her first sentence. Horses were NOT here long before cattle. Granted there was a small “equine” species that once occupied North America but it was extinct long, long, long before the Spaniards came and brought BOTH horses AND cattle.

    She also makes it apparent that she has never really seen horses starve because they have eat themselves out of house and home because they breed like rats.

    The problem is that they do not belong to ANYBODY. No, they do not belong to “the public” because “the public” can not own ethically own anything–all it possesses was taken from some productive individual at the point of a gun.

    The key to saving the species is to make them private property. That is the only way their numbers will ever be controlled.

    If we could only control the numbers of stupid city folk, dudes, Yankees, quivering lips, bed wetters spittle chins and various and sundry retired, burnt our 60 model hippies we wouldn’t have to worry about the horses.


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