Pryor Mountain Roundup – 9/6/2009

September 20, 2009

Tom and I were not at this roundup from the beginning. We arrived Sunday morning, September 6th, 2009. My posts will focus on the four days we were actually there and what we witnessed first hand to the best of my memory.

We left Worland, WY (near the Fifteen Mile HMA) before dawn in hopes we wouldn’t miss much of the day’s activities if we managed to get to the Britton Springs facility by 7:00 AM. However, at 7:00 AM, there was no one else in the parking lot when we arrived at the corrals. A BLM employee met us at the entrance and informed us that nothing would be happening until the “morning briefing” at 9:00 AM. She explained that we needed to stay behind the barrier, handed us a map with printed instructions and said we were free to use the porta-potties before she left and headed back to the main building.

I had read on Matt Dillon’s Pryor Wild Blog that most of the Dryhead (lower area) horses had already been processed and released. We decided to head over to Bighorn Canyon in search of some of those horses until time for the briefing. There were some wildlife sightings along the way.

Sandhill cranes

Sandhill cranes

Wild turkey

Wild turkey

We drove the entire length of the horse range through Bighorn Canyon. We didn’t see a single horse. On the return trip, we spotted Seattle’s band high on a hill. Though they looked fine, they appeared very lethargic. None of the horses moved while we were there. I snapped a few photos and then we headed back to Britton Springs.

Band stallion Seattle

Band stallion Seattle

Yearling colt

Yearling colt

Mare and foal with the distinctive blue dot that indicates they were processed and released to the helicopter pilot

Mare and foal with the distinctive blue dot that indicates they were processed and released to the helicopter pilot

Briefing began and we learned that operations had been underway since early morning to transport captured Forest Service horses to the holding facility. They were to be permanently removed from their home. The news was both sad and frustrating. The BLM employee who spoke with us in the morning did not provide us with this information. Tom and I had time to get up to that area had we known anything was going on. A deliberate effort to mislead us? Not a day into the experience and we’d already been subjected to less than forthright tactics? It was a very disappointing notion to say the least.

We started up Crooked Creek towards the Forest Service area. We didn’t get very far before we ran into other observers coming down the mountain. Things had wrapped up on the Forest Service side and the helicopter was set to start gathering horses from the Burnt Timber area. We all went back to Britton Springs.

While we waited for the helicopter to bring the horses down, we were allowed a walk-through of the corrals to view horses already in holding.




We waited for hours while the helicopter was at Burnt Timber. The pilot would have to chase the horses down approximately 10 miles of steep and rocky terrain to reach the holding facility. All the while the horses would try to dodge, circle back or outrun the loud and scary machine overhead. Who knows how many miles that added to their trip down the mountain.

The small shaded area was where we were to wait until we could be escorted to the viewing ridge.

The small shaded area was where we were to wait until we could be escorted to the viewing ridge.

BLM personnel got the call that the helicopter was close by. Our group of observers was escorted to the ridge where we could watch the horses being manuevered down by the helicopter. I wasn’t sure how I’d react to the sight, so I tried to mentally prepare myself. The first band of horses to come in was Chino’s, a buckskin stallion easily recognizable by his scarce color in the Pryors.

Chino's band

Chino's band


The helicopter pushes the weary, frightened horses to the holding area

The helicopter pushes the weary, frightened horses to the holding area

Emotions were evident - Author and advocate, R.T. Fitch

Emotions were evident - Author and advocate, R.T. Fitch

Filmmaker Ginger Kathrens, Ann Evans - The Cloud Foundation Board Member and Ben Susman - Intern for The Cloud Foundation

Filmmaker Ginger Kathrens, Ann Evans - The Cloud Foundation Board Member and Ben Susman - Intern for The Cloud Foundation

Tom takes it all in

Tom takes it all in

Then it was Bolder’s band being herded towards the corrals. (Bolder is the dark palomino-colored son of Cloud)

Bolder's band

Bolder's band


Running with the Judas horse

Running with the Judas horse

Diamond's band - Cloud's blue roan brother

Diamond's band - Cloud's blue roan brother




The day ended with an escort out to the parking area, through the gate and out onto the road. No one from the public could remain on the grounds past 5:00 PM. It was evident that for us, the roundup would take place between the hours of 9-5:00. Strange to maintain such normal working hours for an event that was anything but business as usual.

(More to follow…)

27 Responses to “Pryor Mountain Roundup – 9/6/2009”

  1. Vicki Freiberger Says:

    Thank you for the pictures. It is just something to view, and not really have any words for, except an empty feeling in your heart and pit of your stomach.

  2. R.T. Fitch Says:

    That hurts to see it all, again. But the story must be told and RE-told as the bullies of the BLM need to be shut down, forever.

  3. Morgan Griffith Says:

    Beautiful photography of such a tragic event. I think this taught people who have not followed the wild horses how a government agency can go rogue and betray not only the horses they are supposed to protect but the American public at large. I cannot imagine how painful it must have been to be there but I thank you for being there.

  4. Agree – I wish I didn’t EVER have to look at these pictures or read about any of this ever again. But, I can’t abandon Cloud and the others. I have to keep blogging and re-blogging, posting and re-posting…

    Writing letters, calling over and over again. I couldn’t let this go even if I wanted to. I can’t even sleep…

  5. Thank you for these addition pictures. They are all so sad.
    I don’t see how all of you observers kept your cool but I admire your courage and foritude.
    Now we must fight for our wild horses harder than ever to save them.

  6. Roni Kelley Says:

    IS THE BLM LAND OVERGRAZED? ARE THE ROUNDUPS NECESSARY? I would like answers to these 2 questions? IF THE LAND, AND I said, “if” the land is not overgrazed and “if” the roundups are therefore not necessary where is the OUTRAGE?

  7. Thank you Pam for being there and documenting this sad and unnecessary event. Let’s hope this round up will open the eyes of the American public and help us protect the wild ones still roaming free. We are still working hard for the release of Conquistador, Grumpy Grulla and the other older horses as well as two of Cloud’s relatives whose removal would lead to the potential end of the buckskin color in the herd and the end of Grumpy Grulla’s line. Keep up the the fight! Many thanks.

  8. Mad About Mustangs Says:

    Cloud, Conquistador and the rest of the Pryor Mt. mustangs haven’t suffered in vain. They’ve ignited a powerful fire among their advocates, and now it is our task to ignite a wildfire amidst the broader animal-loving public and whip them into a political force to be reckoned with, -just like Wildhorse Annie did several decades ago. There are more of us now, and we have much better communication tools now. It’s time we gelded the BLM, and helicopter-chased them out of the horse rustling business !

  9. Oh my gosh this absolutely breaks my heart!!! I cannot believe what’s going on!! And to treat you guys that way is totally unnecessary!!! Thank you and I will continue to follow..

  10. Jan Ferguson Says:

    To Whom It May Concern,
    It’s bad enough that this is happening to these wonderful creatures. Why, can’t they at least give them shade. If the horses can’t have shade, the people should not have shade. This is very hard on the horses. This is the kind of cruelty that goes on when horses are going to slaughter….Where are these horses going….?

  11. Anne & Jack Chism Says:

    I agree with Vicki – gives you just an achy heart.

  12. scavalier Says:

    I’m with all of the above… My question as well, is: where are they going to go? Don’t send them to Canada where we still have horse slaughterhouses. So sad.

  13. Barb Beck Says:

    Thank you so much for the pictures. I can’t imagine being there. Such a sad event….hard to visualize how painful it must have been for horses and observers alike.

    YES, it HAS fired us all up to get out there to end unnecessary gathers such as this one!

  14. pnickoles Says:

    For everyone that has left a comment – thank you for sharing your thoughts, ideas and hopes for our wild horses.

  15. Comments are due the 23rd to the BLM Advisory Board. Send them to with WH&B as the subject.

  16. Laura Houston Says:

    Thanks for posting your observations and pictures.

    What gives the BLM the right to treat the public in such a way? It is as if the few who went to view are the Enemy

    The BLM are like thugs/animal abusers hiding what they do from the public eye.

    The BLM are so out of control, it is crazy. They need to be forced to place 24/7 webcams open to the public at all BLM facilities.

    Mustangs across America are fading away, gone forever. how many countless thousands of mustangs have suffered and died under BLM abuse.

  17. HeatherinNS Says:

    Pam- I watched a lot of this roundup transpire via the Internet, and it’s still a raw wound. I cannot IMAGINE how hard it was/is for those of you who really know and love these beautiful animals!
    Your pictures are also raw and painful, but they still contain much beauty.
    I so hope the poor animals over the age of 10 will somehow escape the fate that they are potentially destined to, and by the noise of people’s voices around the world, we can win their freedom again. I have hope, anyway.
    It sickens me that the BLM stands to make money off tearing apart this famous herd!

    And then, they move on to rend another herd, and another, and another…so unfair…
    Thank you for your pictures and blog.

  18. lj hearn Says:

    Pam your photographs are absolutely stunning. Know that every one of them has so much beauty in it. I’m in awe of your talent. I’ve got a very close friend who’s very talented and also paints. He’s newly turned pro doing photography, what advice would you give to a budding young photographer? I’m sending your page to him, so he can enjoy your art. Stunning!!

    As for these wild horses? I feel like I’ve been raped by our Gov’t. They just keep on taking and taking and pretty soon it’s all going to be gone. I’ve been fighting to end horse slaughter in this country and what they do in these plants is horrific to say the least. I’ve been to the Kaufman plant here in TX. and these people that talk of how necessary it is,…. ? You’ve got no damned clue as to what you’re wishing on these innocent, sentient beings! You can’t know, until you’ve witnessed it first hand. It’s a very ugly business. Please keep fighting for the horses everyone!! They need us all right now! Thank You Pam, Ginger, R.T., Jerry, Vicki, and Steve! Someone needs to lock up the BLM folks. They’re breakin’ laws right and left!! Sorry for the rant! Would love to get your newsletter of any future events.

    With Great Appeciation,
    Laura Jean

  19. pnickoles Says:

    Thank you everyone for taking the time to read and comment.

  20. I live next to the Wild Horse Range close to Lovell, Wyoming. We drive through there a couple of times a week. I see these mustang horses in every kind of weather and condition. I have seen them starve during drought years and I have seen them thrive during good years. Yes, it is sad to cull the herd but its part of life and if the BLM doesn’t do it then mother nature will. That particular wild horse reserve is set in high plains desert and a lot of it does not grow a lot of grass. These horses have to be culled or they will starve. It is a hard concept but true. Look at the terrain in your pictures, sagebrush and juniper bushes, rocks and dirt. Not much grass or water. That doesn’t feed many animals especially horses. How many water sources are on the reserve? I can think of two or three springs from the foot of the Pryors to the canyon rims of the reserve, not much water for that many horses. You mentioned five studs in your pictures. If they each have 20 mares (which is too many in a herd) and then yearling horses and new colts born each year, that makes up the 125 horses deemed healthy for the size of the refuge area and the grass. There are more springs on top of the mountain but five bands of horses at 25 lbs of grass a day is a lot for that refuge area, especially year round. The BLM is making choices dealing with all of those problems. I raise horses on our ranch and we face the same problems in our domestic horses but I don’t think stopping slaughter houses in the USA is the answer. There are times and occasions that require the need to put down horses and it may seem cruel but so is letting them starve when there is no feed or suffer when they are sick with cancer or have broken legs. The slaughter houses are harsh but a necessary, as humane as possible, part of the balance in helping mother nature. Pam your pictures are beautiful. These animals are free and strong and our guests love to see them and take pictures of them. I don’t want them to disappear from our area but I personally have to cull horses out of our herd and it is a heart wrenching job but the grass has to support what we leave there to graze and year after year would add to many horses to the land and then they would starve and that is more inhumane than the BLM culling them. Working with the BLM might get more positive results. The horse adoptions are a good idea and possibly placing these horses in places where they can be worked with and trained might be an alternate choice instead of slaughter. Boys and girls homes and prisons and like schools are places that train and work with horses. The BLM spends a lot of money to deal with these horses (at the tax payers expense, you and me) and maybe if your followers offered alternative suggestions and support everyone would benefit. Can’t hurt to try. Outside the Loop, Jennifer

  21. Jennifer, you really ARE outside the loop, aren’t you. You need to educate yourself, seriously. Do you really think we’re so naive that we don’t know the facts of life? Do you think we’d be fighting the BLM tooth and nail if they were doing what was best for the horses? Believe me, hon, what they’re doing is NOT “culling.”

  22. Roni Kelley Says:

    This is in reply to post #20, Jennifer from Lovell. The really sad thing is you guys that she is not “out of the loop”, in her own mind, she believes she is “inside the loop”. Let me explain. I was born and raised on ranches around Meeteetse and Grass Creek Wyoming. Later on the Sweetwater Country. Alot of people in Wyoming have never been to Yellowstone, just like living in Denver and never having gone to Elitches. My point is that they don’t SEE IT, the are uninformed and in denial. They honestly do NOT know or CARE TO KNOW what the BLM is up to. I know I used to think just like Jennifer when I lived there and cowboyed.

  23. Sonya Says:

    Reply to Jennifer “out of the loop” post #20:
    Jennifer, I appreciate your comments, as it demonstrates that there is a need for accurate education out there, to counter-balance the government’s repeated attempts at propaganda suggesting our nation’s wild horses are starving and need “major culling”. I appreciate the opportunity to provide information based on by my own research and cross-referencing, as well as my own personal studies out among the wild horses in SE Oregon, to make this information as factual as possible for others to utilize.

    True, as with all wildlife and nature, there is indeed feast and there is famine conditions in the wilderness, as your observations indicated. But that’s nature, and ‘natural selection’ promises to build better animals suited for that particular region where they forage, as well as keeping population numbers in check.

    I’d like to remove you from the one particular area you speak of for the moment, and with no fault of your own a narrow view point, and ask you to step back and look at the big picture. The BLM staff in the various BLM gathering regions is not at fault, they’re doing their jobs… merely following orders from their boss in the big office in Washington DC. The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act mandates that wild horses and burros be managed on 47 million acres of public lands on 303 herd areas. Since 1971, wild horses have been zeroed out from 111 herd areas representing over 19 million acres. With escalated roundups, since year 2000, wild horse numbers have been reduced by 40%. Roundups cost tax payers millions, in additon…feeding, vet care, euthanizing our captured wild horses in government facilities are also costing us millions, while the wild horses on the ranges cost us nothing. Yet they roundup more. For year 2010, records show BLM will be removing an additional (approx.) 10,000 of our wild horses to add to the overburdened holding facilities of 33,000. It is a sad shame that there are more mustangs in captivity than out on our public ranges set aside for them.

    All should be very concerned about the wild horses issue because I have gone over BLM database showing the sheer huge numbers of mustangs to be removed… again as stated, adding 10,000-12,000 more horses in 2010 to the huge number of mustangs already in CAPTIVITY, we are currently feeding. Many of these herds are being “zero’d” out and lost in that area forever. We have plenty of land and really when we’re talking about millions upon millions of acres of public land to a few thousand wild horses, there really is not a problem of too many horses. Absolutely there needs to be management, but not to this extreme degree.

    I study wild horses in se Oregon, and am a believer if they’re born wild, they ARE wild. But even more important, horses are linked by DNA to early horse in North America prior to the ice age, and ONLY found in North America. With that said, THEY ARE NATIVE AND WARRANT FEDERAL PROTECTION. In addition, for the last couple hundred years with their RE-introduction by the Spaniards, there’s been many generations of mustangs, further evolving characteristics, herd and individualistic behaviors, most suited for that environment. As an aside: Too much human interference (like a breeding program) dictated by human likes and dislikes/personal tastes, will produce herds of, for instance, pretty halter horses, rather than what the environment calls for NATURALLY. I appreciate all horses of all walks of life, but I’m in awe to see our natural mustangs, and to see what natural selection has evolved based on that particular environment.. ie, typically bigger/stonger legs, big healthy feet with thick hoof walls, etc.

    I search hard to find small bands of mustangs, and even though I know them and their behaviors well, many times I don’t find them. We don’t have a problem with too many wild horses out in the ranges as they say. Just this last month in SE Oregon (the herds I observe) 300 horses were removed, leaving only 100 mustangs on the designated 175,000-acre Steens Mountain Wilderness.

    I was recently asked about both sides of our mustang issue, with the loaded question, Why?
    The answer, point blank “Money”. OUR public lands allotted and PROMISED to US and our wild horses (through the wild horse act of 1971, but then surreptitiously amended in 2004, which is where the struggle was resurrected), has gotten smaller, and continues to do so. Why? Because individuals pay to LEASE public (meaning “our”) lands from the government for grazing rights. But it doesn’t stop there.. there’s also big game hunting (money for tags), urban sprawl (money for land), oil, and recently ~ wind turbines, and the latest eye-opener… URANIUM mines, see Mustang for Uranium~ . Absolutely no joke. It’s crystal clear why money is the main thread and source behind the removal of more and more mustangs… Mustangs which are our western and National heritage…. and our National treasure.

    It is indeed important to know both sides of the story. The government officials who’s plight to reduce free-ranging mustangs, claiming that it’s due to their concern and welfare for the animals to protect them from famine by keeping mustang numbers down… are the SAME government officials who want to kill these amazing animals, who they’ve mismanaged and put into government holding facilities (as stated, but important to repeaat… 33,000 mustangs, yet they continue roundups. Is this making any sense to anyone?? Why roundup more to add to the problem on our dime, just to destroy them… again, on our dime?

    For the average person, who is not up to speed with this issue… it may be soothing and nice to hear gov/BLM say “it’s for the welfare of these horses”. Wild horses like ALL wild animals can do just fine without human intervention. True, the only predators wild horses have (beside the obvious~ man) are cougars (Thanks again to “intervention” nearly eliminating wolves). BUT EVEN SO, lack of forage for whatever the reason, IS also a process of nature, and keeps herds in check. Why must we attempt to control everything, including the effective functioning of an ecosystem? Insufficient forage means less birth rates, and of course, during times of drought or famine there would fully functioning natural selection. Our natural laws of the ecosystem are fully functional and self-adjusting. If a horse is lost to famine, nature also has a way to give back and recycles it to benefit other animals or organisms.

    North America in early 1900’s had 2 million mustangs… my heart sinks when I think there’s now a mere 27,000, and only a few states have them. The west without mustangs? Empty, and in my opinion, no longer considered wild or the “last frontier’… as we’ve conquered/controlled IT down to the last wild animal. Once our wild horses are gone off the western rangelands, our last open spaces and what’s considered “the last frontier” will also be taken and converted to populated areas with strip malls, wind turbines, homes, and airports.. as it is in the rest of the US… With the horses gone, the land can be utilized. That’s why I say with a heavy heart, with every roundup, our west is less wild. Truly, I believe, the loss of wild horse freedom in this big west of ours, eerily parallels our own loss of freedom/s as citizens of this great country.

    Please know that latest the government (BLM head, Salazar) is proposing, is to create aritficial game preserves in the midwest and east and move our mustangs THERE! This is why all of what I, and many other wild horse advocates, are pushing so hard to prevent more “natural wild herds” from being manipulated, controlled, thereby exterminated. Is there anyone out there who would like to take their family to a zoo to view wild horses? We must protect our western frontiers, and keep our wild horses protected and free on them, if we want to hold onto to any last wild places.

    This whole issue is difficult to process and help others understand it’s scope, because there are many facets to consider. I want, and I want future generations to view the wild herds, and see “natural” mustangs, the way the land helped shape them. As I’ve already mentioned, I don’t want a bunch of pretty ‘halter horses’ out there, but what NATURE created.

    Alternative suggestions:
    Yes, management is necessary, but we need to have regulations so we don’t lose the natural mustang. Contraception may be an option, but again with careful regulations (lead by wild horse advocate coalitions). Perhaps even paying cattle ranchers for mustangs on their private land… is also another option. Correct management must be the least invasive to be appropriate, but natural selection is key. I would recommend ‘appropriate’ management to be OVERSEEN by a well respected and expert wild horse coalition, along with regular and unbiased range analysis.

    One more thing a “food for thought” if you will, in regards to “fearing for wild horses and starvation”…. Keep in mind if the few thousand remaining wild horses were really doing so poorly on the range lands, so would the millions of cattle and other livestock, as well as big game (pronghorn antelope, deer and elk) enjoying those very same public ranges set aside for the mustangs, would also be obviously effected.. if the situation were really so dire.

    Thank you for the opportunity to discuss this tremendous crisis at length, regarding our amazing symbol of our great nation, as well as our last frontier.

    “Together THEY stand. Divided THEY fall”.

  24. Sonya, Where are you today? Oregon is still losing horses, more in another couple weeks. I hope you are fighting with us. Your knowledge and in sights are needed. mar

  25. Janet Ferguson Says:

    Marilyn, I was just re-reading this and thinking the same thing: where is “Sonya” today?

  26. Jim Says:

    My wife Phyllis was so inspired by the wild horses in McCullough Peaks range that she wrote a pictorial book about a family of wild mustangs entitled ‘Sunny Boy and Little Sunny’, Wild mustangs are becoming less and less a part of our landscape and the government seeks to reduce herds dramatically. We need to preserve this heritage now or we will forever lose it.


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