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Competitive bid adoption aims at changing wild horse management

Unique effort aims to stem overpopulations of wild horses that damage resources and cause reductions in cattle grazing.

By Lee Juillerat

For the Capital Press

Published on March 21, 2018 9:42AM

Beatys Butte Wild Horse Training Facility manager Jim Hiatt with Flash Gordon, one of 10 professionally gentled mustangs that will be put up for bid April 13-14 near Adel, Ore.

Beatys Butte Wild Horse Training Facility

Beatys Butte Wild Horse Training Facility manager Jim Hiatt with Flash Gordon, one of 10 professionally gentled mustangs that will be put up for bid April 13-14 near Adel, Ore.

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ADEL, Ore. — A first-ever competitive bid adoption for professionally gentled feral, or wild, horses could help shape future management plans on the nation’s public lands.

A two-day competitive adoption is scheduled April 13 and 14 in the small rural southeastern Oregon community of Adel. The event includes training demonstrations at the Beaty Butte Wild Horse Training Facility in Adel, where mustangs captured from the Beaty Butte area have received training. Bidding for 10 horses will begin 2 p.m. April 14.

“It’s the first sustainable wild horse program in the West and if it works it will change the whole notion of how the horses are managed in the West,” said Mary Bradbury, who hopes the inaugural event will be successful. “We have no idea what will happen. Adel is pretty far out.”

Bradbury and her husband, Dick, are Adel area ranchers involved with the Beaty Butte Working Group, a coalition of ranchers, horse groups, environmentalists — including the Oregon Natural Desert Association — and others. They began meeting and working with the Bureau of Land Management in 2015 to find solutions to prevent resource damage at the Beatys Butte Herd Management Area. About 65 miles east of Lakeview, Ore., the area spans more than 437,120 acres of federal and privately owned land.

“A few years back Beaty Butte became so over-populated with wild horses, as much of the rangelands in the West are, that grazing was being threatened as well as other wildlife habitat,” said Anna Kerr of the Intermountain West Joint Venture. “This truly is an amazing program that is receiving national attention. The program produces a win-win situation in the wild horse arena that doesn’t happen in most cases.”

The upcoming competitive adoption, and horse demonstration and training sessions, will be held at the training facility, which was built by the BLM for the locally run, private, nonprofit horse training program.

Although the BLM, which manages most of the Beaty Butte management area and has extensive lands throughout the American West, has developed other agreements on managing wild horses, “This one is unique because it provides a holistic approach,” said James Price, the wild horse and burro specialist for BLM’s Lakeview District.

If successful, Price said the program could result in significant savings. It’s estimated the lifetime cost for keeping unadopted wild/feral horses in a holding facility is $47,000 per animal — “It’s pretty substantial,” he said.

In addition, Price said overpopulations of horses result in extensive resource damage. Along with causing reductions in cattle grazing, damage to riparian areas adversely impact sage grouse, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, bighorn sheep and other animals, birds and raptors.

The program to capture, train and sell wild horses is part of a possible new management plan. BLM wild horse captures at Beaty Butte, as elsewhere, have typically been done about every five years when populations are extreme. During the last Beaty Butte capture, Price said more than 1,000 horses were gathered. The “appropriate management levels” for Beaty Butte is 100 to 250 horses.

Because the Beaty Butte mustang population is now more than 200, plans now envision yearly captures of 20 to 30 horses and then having them trained for adoptive bidding at annual sales at the Beaty Butte Training Facility, which is overseen by facility manager Jim Hiatt and head trainer Catlin Martin.

The upcoming adoption event will have 10 mustangs — including Flash Gordon, Chuck Wagon, Napoleon, Lefty, and six others — up for sale following two horse handling demonstrations. Other activities will include cowboy and western arts vendors and an auction to benefit the training facility along with an April 13 no-host dinner at the Adel Store.

“It’s new and there’s a lot of excitement about it,” Price said of the event and sale.

“I think being part of the solution is a good thing,” agreed Bradbury. “I’m thrilled to be part of a solution that keeps horses out there.”

For more information visit http://beatybuttewildhorses.com or contact facility manager Jim Hiatt at 541-219-0155, or Larisa Bogardus, Lakeview District BLM public affairs officer at 541-947-6237. Information is also available at www.beatybuttewildhorses.com and on Facebook at Beatybuttewildhorses.

Beatys Butte Mustang Adoption

Location: Beatys Butte Wild Horse Training Facility, Adel, Ore.. On 20 Mile Road, south of the Adel Store. Follow signs.


April 13 at 3 p.m.: Horse preview and training demonstration. At 5 p.m.: No-host dinner at the Adel Store.

April 14 at 10 a.m.: Horse preview and training demonstration. 2 p.m.: Competitive bid adoption.


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