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Helicopters drive wild horses into traps in northwest Colorado

The Bureau of Land Management wants to reduce the herd from about 900 horses to 163 in the Sand Wash Basin.

MOFFAT COUNTY, Colo. — Coming to the Sand Wash Basin to see the wild horses was healing for Meg Frederick, spiritually and physically.

"In 2011, I was hit by a drunk driver," Frederick said. "I noticed when I was out with those wild horses, I didn't feel pain."

Frederick said she has been documenting the wild horses for years in the Sand Wash Basin, about an hour west of Craig.

"We watch them from foal to band stallion, from foal to mom," Frederick said. "Now, they're all going to be gone."

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans to reduce the number of wild horses here from about 900 to 163.

Bruce Sillitoe manages the Sand Wash Basin for the BLM and said the capture of more than 730 horses is necessary.

"I appreciate that people are emotional about these animals cause they are beautiful animals," Sillitoe said. "They also need to understand that it's not OK to allow the population to get up to a certain level, right on the edge, before they start to crash."

Sillitoe said the prolonged drought has left too little water and vegetation for food in the Sand Wash Basin. He said the herd must be reduced to the lower end of the official Appropriate Management Level, which has been determined by BLM to be between 163 and 362 horses.

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"The management level that ensures there's sufficient food for the horses and the sage grouse and the antelope and the other animals that call the Sand Wash Basin home," Sillitoe said.

Frederick said she believes the horses are healthy and should stay. Watching the helicopter roundups on Saturday, she said it's cruel to the animals.

"They're happily grazing, and then here comes this monster out of the sky. It's terrifying," she said.

Sillitoe said the BLM works closely with contractors to make sure the horses are treated humanely.

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"This is an environment where the horses can be moved to the trap in a way that is safe for them," Sillitoe said. "We don't have any massive areas of concern."

Frederick said she's concerned that these wild horses will now have to learn to live in captivity.

"They're in a cage now, stressed out, scared to death and packed like sardines," she said. "The accidents and deaths and things like that, it doesn't happen when they're running. It happens right now."

The BLM stated that it captured 126 horses on Saturday, bringing the total captured so far to 207 horses, including 24 foals.

Frederick said the Sand Wash Basin will be forever changed.

"I will probably never be able to emotionally come back here," she said. "I mean, this place is going to be a like a graveyard to me."


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