CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A roundup of wild horses continued Monday in the desert of southwestern Wyoming after a judge declined to stop it during a lawsuit over how the animals are counted.
As of Sunday, U.S. Bureau of Land Management contract workers had rounded up 1,367 adult horses and 350 foals.
The agency could reach its goal of capturing 1,560 adults plus the foals of captured mares this week, bureau spokeswoman Kristen Lenhardt said.
The roundup is going on amid a dispute between horse advocates and federal officials over whether the foals should be included in the total count.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal last week denied a request by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and two wildlife photographers to halt the roundup while their lawsuit against the bureau proceeds.
The roundup in three remote areas began Sept. 23. The horse advocates failed to show that allowing the roundup to continue would cause irreparable harm, Freudenthal ruled.
“Delaying the gather would allow the wild horse population to expand, wasting the BLM’s scarce resources invested in organizing the proposed gather and forcing the BLM to lose out on the costs it has already incurred,” Freudenthal wrote.
The horse advocates’ lawsuit claims the roundup cannot exceed 1,560 horses, including the foals.
Lenhardt said the bureau was pleased with the judge’s decision. “Gathering wild horses to a sustainable population is necessary to ensure quality rangeland conditions for the wild horse herds,” she said.
Horse advocates said they were disappointed. But they pointed out Freudenthal had yet to rule on the crux of the lawsuit ‚Äî that not counting foals toward the total would lead to rounding up hundreds more horses.
“This new tactic is a very different kind of approach compared to the way they’ve done things previously,” their attorney, William Eubanks, said Monday.
Wild horses far exceed U.S. government population goals in many areas of the American West. The horses compete with cattle and sheep for forage. Ranchers for decades have demanded more action by federal officials to keep wild horse numbers down.
Some rounded up horses are offered up for adoption. Others go to wild horse sanctuaries.