Dishpan Butte Wild Horses
November 1, 2009
Backtracking a bit to September (after the roundup). When we left the Pryor’s, we decided to head towards a herd area we’d never been to before – part of the North Lander Complex in Wyoming. I had heard a roundup was going to be conducted there, so I hoped to see the horses before that occurred.
Upon entering the Dishpan Butte HMA, we came upon this band. The first wild horses I’ve seen with blankets. I was pretty excited…and they were pretty nervous.
After the spotted band of horses left, Tom and I drove around for quite a while. We didn’t see any more horses, so we went across the highway to another HMA; Conant Creek (or it could’ve possibly been Rock Creek Mountain). Over there, we never saw a single horse (and very little sign), but we did come across many cattle and the usual range wildlife of sage grouse and antelope.
We hadn’t made it in too far when we were stopped by a very muddy creek that looked like it could swallow up the Jeep, so we turned around and went back to Dishpan Butte. Our luck improved by late afternoon.
I walked a ways and finally spotted horses over a hill. They were a little less uneasy with me and as I got closer, I realized why. It was a small group of bachelor stallions. The bachelors are always easier to approach and usually less cautious. Most of the time, they’re very curious. I really enjoy spending time with the bachelor bands.
I am always grateful that the horses allow me these glimpses into their lives. It’s such a privilege.
On our way back, on the same 2-track we’d come in on, we came upon a scene that had unfolded while I’d been off taking pictures. Wildlife drama. A prairie falcon had just killed a sage grouse.
We decided to call it a night and find a place to camp. We headed down the highway until we found a forest service road. We took a little 2-track road off the main dirt road until it dead-ended at a fenceline. We were shocked to find a perfect little parking pad at the end of the road in the middle of no where. No where. Well Tom, he was pretty happy about the find as it meant it would be a lot easier to level the Jeep (for sleeping without a head rush) and unload the gear onto a cleaner surface. It felt like “cheating” to me. We were supposed to be roughing it, but I suppose we’d been directed to this slab of concrete for a purpose. So there we were, somewhere in rugged, remote Wyoming, watching the day come to a colorful close…on a parking lot.
The next morning, we loaded up (Tom was right – with the exception of some moths that moved in overnight, our gear stayed really clean) and drove back to Dishpan Butte.
The spotted band had moved back to the area where we had first found them. I felt bad that they appeared so troubled by my presence. I stayed way back and stood very still hoping they’d relax a little.
The next family of horses I spotted made me work for their photos. They were a long ways off, but it was early, I was still fresh and willing to make the effort.
I didn’t want to push these guys, so I hiked back to the Jeep and we continued to drive through the herd area in search of more horses.
Out of the corner of my eye (I’m blessed with wonderful peripheral vision) I caught a glimpse of something white in the distance between hills. Tom saw nothing, but I convinced him to try to find a 2-track that went west where I think I’ve seen something. He locates a road and we’re on it for a while before I start to doubt that I saw anything. We both decide to go over “one more hill” before turning around. And there they were, just over that next hill. A large group of mostly white (grey) horses. Even I wondered how I managed to see these guys. Cool!
Tom and I were at Dishpan Butte for almost 2 full days. We counted just over 30 horses. I began to wonder about the timing of the roundup. Had it already taken place? It would sure explain the low count and just how uneasy the horses were. When we got home, I e-mailed the Lander BLM office and got my answer. The gather had taken place in July.
“We gathered 1053 horses and removed 804 from the 4 (four) different HMA’s. We returned 245 horses to the various HMA’s in which they were rounded up. We returned 50 horses to the Dishpan Butte HMA and missed 10-20 horses in the roundup..so there is probably 60 – 70 horses in the Dishpan Butte HMA.”
The North Lander Complex is approximately 375,000 acres for the small number of wild horses that are left. Heartbreaking. What I failed to ask, and what the BLM range specialist failed to mention when I e-mailed was the number of fatalities that occurred during this roundup. I was extremely saddened by the staggering number of horses taken off the ranges, but devastated to learn that 17 horses died and 7 of those were foals (the full story can be read HERE). I just can’t understand the continued annihilation of the herds. When will it stop? When will people become so enraged that they come together to do something to save our wonderous herds of wild horses? I choose to think that most people are just unaware – if they fully understood what the mustangs were going through, surely they’d be much more proactive.
Through these posts and photographs, that is the story I’m trying to tell, along with so many other wild horse advocates. Please, share, share and share our information with whoever will listen…before it’s too late.