Snowbound basin

18 01 2008

Pintos against La Sals

Dec. 16 was sunny and fairly mild, with temperatures in the lower 20s. I did not expect to encounter so much snow, so I left my snowshoes in the Jeep. Far enough in to decide not to turn back, I wished I had them!

I knew the pintos prefer the southern area of the herd area, and I had not seen them my previous few visits, so I chose to hike in to that area. Also, the far southern end is an area with which I am not as familiar as other parts of the basin. I had previously seen the pintos – stallion Bruiser, mare Kiowa and her foal, Reya, and mare Chipeta – with a seal brown mare I call Ceal. The first time I saw Ceal was in May 2004 up in the northeastern part of the herd area; I also saw her in April 2007 when two bands of pintos merged briefly in the very southern end.

Ceal and her 2007 black filly, Shadow, were with Bruiser’s band in October, but when I first saw the pintos through the binoculars on this trip, I didn’t see Ceal, so I decided to go closer in case she was hidden behind a hill nearby.

Chipeta and Kiowa

(Chipeta, foreground with the big snip, was named after Chief Ouray’s wife. I saw her in April with a mature horse I now think may have been her dam. I think she’ll probably be 3 this spring, and I do not think she is pregnant. Kiowa, in the background, was named after an Indian tribe known for their horsemanship. She had a foal when I saw her in April, has a foal now – Reya – and looks pregnant.)

Pintos against the La Sals

(Chipeta follows Kiowa and Reya along a snow-covered ridge in the southern end of the herd area. The stallion is not far behind. The mountains in the far distance are the La Sal Mountains in Utah.) 

Ceal was not with the pintos, but when they moved off across a ridge in the photos, I discovered Ceal and Shadow below that ridge against a small hill. Ceal is extremely thin, and I am worried about her ability to make it through the winter. If she does not make it, I hope the pintos adopt Shadow.

During my time in the snow, I also saw horses way up to the north, on the northeastern side of the hill called Round Top. They may have been Houdini and her family, but I couldn’t tell because of the distance and light glare.

I did realize that the southern end probably gets much more snow than the northern portion of the herd area – there are more trees and the topography features more hills – so I doubt the area is much used by the horses during the winter.



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