BLM Officials Rounding Up Iconic Wild Horse Herd In Tooele County

Sep 11, 2019, 7:47 PM | Updated: 8:29 pm

TOOELE, Utah – Officials from the Bureau of Land Management began conducting a round-up in Tooele County of one of the most photographed herds of wild horses in the country.

The round-up is focused on the 450-head herd of wild Onaqui horses, which will be reduced by 200 animals.

It’s a controversial topic as many were opposed to the practice, saying it can be inhumane for the animals. They also questioned whether the reduction is necessary.

“These wild ones, in particular, are extremely spiritual in my book,” said Duschene County resident Lynette Larson who opposed the round-up.

The Onaqui herd makes up a small portion of the 88,000 wild horses roaming the western United States.

Utah is home to more than 5,000 wild horses, but BLM officials determined the appropriate management level allows for 1,956 wild horses in the state.

“Our biggest thing for us is to have sustainable herds on sustainable land,” said BLM spokeswoman Lisa Reid.

The BLM is tasked with preserving and managing the horses. Officials said there are too many – both in Utah and the U.S.

“The appropriate management level for horses on the range [nationwide] is 27,000, so as you can see we are very overpopulated,” Reid said.

It’s why a helicopter flew across Tooele County Wednesday, rounding up 200 of the Onaqui herd.

“It may cost the government $150k,” said Gus Warr, BLM incident commander.

According to Warr, the popular herd of Onaqui horses would not be affected by the round-up.

“A lot of public go out there and view and photograph those horses,” he said. “We aren’t going to touch those horses. We’re going to be all the way around them.”

Reid said other methods will be used to control the herd.

“The good thing about the Onaqui herd is that we are able to dart the core population,” she said. “The core population we will not be gathering and we are able to effectively treat them with birth control. The 200 we would like to remove are outside the herd management area and are not approachable so it will be nice to get those horses off of the peripheral area and then be able to concentrate our efforts through birth control for the core herd.”

According to Reid, they are going to round-up horses on lands not designated for wild horses, private lands, BLM lands designated for other uses, Forest Service lands and the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground.

Those concerned about the horse’s welfare also attended the helicopter round-up.

“Anybody that tells you that helicopters are not stressful, they are,” Warr said. “They can be stressful on animals if they are not done properly.”

She added the pilots hired for the round-up were trained to take a less aggressive approach around the horses.

“A helicopter can be done very efficiently and humanely in my opinion compared to a lot of other techniques,” Warr said.

“I don’t know if there is a right way to disturb an animal in its natural environment,” said Sat Lake City resident Kristen Bullock, who opposed the round-ups. “Everything behind this situation is money,” she said.

Bullock questioned BLM officials’ decision to round up the horses in the first place, including the way they determine how many to take.

“They can choose to say, ‘ok, 400 horses isn’t enough’ because technically 400 plus is a genetically viable herd,” she said.

Bullock said the Onaqui herd needs to have more than the approximately 250 horses or so that will be left after the round-up to thrive.

She also questioned other interest groups she fears may be pressuring BLM officials to reduce the herd size.

“Horses are federally protected so while a horse is in a federally protected area, you can’t mine you can’t drill,” Bullock said. “There is no way to tap into these resources that make money while there is a federally protected animal involved and so it’s much bigger than that; everything behind this situation is money.”

However, BLM officials said it’s about having a balance on land designated for multiple uses.

“We have to have a good balance between the two – not only just the horses but the wildlife and the livestock that come through,” Reid said.

The horses will be sent to a holding facility in Delta where they will be prepared for adoption. According to Reid, Utah says has one of the most successful adoption programs in the country, averaging 400 adoptions per year. However, nationwide 47,000 wild horses are still in holding facilities.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

With so many Utah communities concerned about potential flooding this spring, because of the heavy ...
Alex Cabrero

Utah company offers free cyclone sand to help prepare for flooding

With so many Utah communities concerned about potential flooding this spring, Geneva Rock has decided to give sandbags to Utah cities and counties for free.
19 hours ago
Cities and counties across Utah are taking advantage of the extra water this winter to replenish aq...
Ladd Egan

Water districts using extra water to recharge aquifers

Cities and counties across Utah are taking advantage of the extra water this winter to replenish aquifers.
19 hours ago
(Alex Cabrero/KSL TV)...
Madison Swenson

Remains found in debris of Spanish Fork house fire; work underway to identify victim

Police and fire officials believe they have found the remains of a woman whose Spanish Fork home went up in flames Tuesday.
19 hours ago
(Utah Highway Patrol)...
Eliza Pace

Three dead, two injured in crash, US-89 closed

Three people are dead and two, including a baby, were injured in a car crash that closed U.S. Highway 89 in both directions.
19 hours ago
Police respond to Spanish Fork High School after receiving reports of an active shooter, which were...
Eliza Pace and Dan Rascon

Hoax calls of shooting threats to Utah schools came from out of the country

Authorities said several school shooting threats were all tracked to one IP address from outside of the country.
19 hours ago
Sodalicious illegally allowed 19 young teenagers to work more hours and times than lawfully permitt...
Brooke Williams

Four Utah Sodalicious locations violate federal child labor laws

The operators of a Utah-born specialty beverage and dessert shop called "Sodalicious" illegally allowed 19 young teens to work more hours and times than lawfully permitted, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Labor.
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Stack of old laptops with dark background...
PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Close up of an offset printing machine during production...
Les Olson IT

Top 7 Reasons to Add a Production Printer to Your Business

Learn about the different digital production printers and how they can help your company save time and money.
vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
BLM Officials Rounding Up Iconic Wild Horse Herd In Tooele County