The Balancing Act of the Challis Wild Horses

May 24, 2016 - With over 67,000 wild horses and burros roaming public lands in 10 western states, finding the balance between protecting federal rangeland and managing these wild animals is harder than ever.

Tucked away just off highway 93, you'll find this group of about 60 wild horses. 

Between the rain and the wind, the horses are barely phased by our presence.

“Because of the proximity to town, I know these groups of horses better than any of the other horses and I've got to know them really well,” explained Kevin Lloyd, the Wild Horse Specialist for the Bureau of Land Management's Challis Field Office.

He knows their different personalities and characteristics. 

“There are some that are really smart and some that are friendlier than others,” said Lloyd. 

This herd dates back nearly 150 years and today consists of about 240 animals. 

Over the years, wild horses have out competed other wildlife and adapted to the many challenges thrown their way. 

“I've seen places where they travel 10 miles to either eat or get water and then travel back," said Lloyd.  "I've seen them in extreme drought and also really snowy conditions.”

With their adaptability and reproductive rate, the number of wild horses will nearly double in four to five years.

Once the number of horses exceeds the appropriate management level of that area, some have to be removed.

Andrea Maki founded Wild Love Preserve in 2010.  It's a nonprofit that helps manage Idaho's wild horse population.

"We are able to address horses that are on the range and horses that have been removed from the range, right here, rather than having horses shipped out to other holding facilities in other states," explained Maki. 

Wild Love Preserve adopted all the horses made available after the 2012 round up in Challis and created a wild expanse for the 130 horses. 

By doing so, Maki has been able to save tax payers 7.5 million dollars.

"To see them be able to be who they are, with no strings attached, I just find that it's really, really important and they are so happy being who they are," said Maki.  "We are able to set a precedent of creating a wild expanse right here at home."

Since the last round up, Maki has worked with the BLM to proactively manage the population using a fertility treatment to slow the herd's growth.

"We implement what's called native PZP one year and that is non hormonal, bio degradable, fertility vaccine," said Maki.  "So we dart the ladies in the rump and we do that once a year."

It's a balancing act that continues, one Lloyd and Maki hope will keep wild horses running free for years to come. 

"The thing with the wild horses is if you gain their trust then they are right with you. They have a lot of try. They have a lot of stamina. The wild horses are just extremely tough," said Lloyd.

Currently there are no horses for adoption in the Challis area, but nationwide there are 46,000 wild horses and burros in holding facilities that the BLM says will cost an estimated billion dollars to care for over their lifetime. 

To find out more information on the Challis wild horses or the best places to view them head to: http://www.blm.gov/id/st/en/prog/wild_horses_/hmas/challis_hma.html

And for more information on Wild Love Preserve or to make a donation head to:

http://www.wildlovepreserve.org/

Originally posted May 24, 2016, by KPVI

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