McCullough Peaks fertility control EA

31 01 2011

McCullough Peaks Herd Management Area, east of Cody, Wyo., has a fertility control EA out for review, similar to the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range Finding of No Significant Impact/Decision Record.

From the McCullough Peaks EA: “Gathers and removals alone will not address the fundamental problem, which is reproduction by horses remaining on the range.

“The purpose of the Proposed Action is to consider a fertility control treatment program in order to maintain a population of 100 adult wild horses which is also within the AML of 70 – 140 wild horses. The purpose is also to stabilize the population in order to reduce the need for larger helicopter gather and removal operations. The Proposed Action in this EA considers the BLM’s need to help maintain wild horse herd numbers to levels consistent with the AML and to make progress towards achieving standards of rangeland health. The need for the Proposed Action is to maintain the population in a thriving natural ecological balance by maintaining the wild horse population within the AML and to analyze the impacts to the wild horses from utilization of fertility control.”

Please also take the time to read photographer Pam Nickoles’ recent blog post:

Pam has made frequent visits to the McCullough Peaks herd, gotten to know the horses intimately and is very invested in the health and well-being of the herd. Visit her website to see stunning photography of wild horses across the West, including McCullough Peaks.

Reviewers of the EA have 30 days to comment. Comments should be addressed to Patricia L. Hatle, BLM-CYFO, 1002 Blackburn Ave., Cody, WY 82414 and postmarked no later than February 22, 2011. Comments can also be e-mailed no later than close of business on February 22, 2011, to:

Please do take the time to comment. Pryor Mountain now has an annual fertility control program (as it has in the past), McCullough Peaks would follow that example (and fertility control also has been used there in the past) … and Spring Creek Basin would follow in their footsteps, using fertility control to slow, not stop herd population growth (I’m not a proponent of sterilization, and I’m not sure I like the intense management as is used at Assateague being applied to Western herds). Soon, I’ll be asking you to comment on our EA. I simply ask that you read the EA and comment.

If it helps, use information from my previous blog post: and/or peruse information found here and here to help form educated opinions about the use of fertility control.

The range is not going to be expanded. Mountain lions do not provide sufficient population-control predation. Roundups will continue to happen … hopefully with a move away from helicopters to more humane bait trapping with fewer horses removed and less often than currently. Am I talking about McCullough Peaks or Spring Creek Basin here? Either. Both. Focus on what we CAN do.

The horses are known – they’re documented extensively in McCullough Peaks, as they are in Little Book Cliffs, on Pryor Mountain and at Spring Creek Basin. Volunteers will be used in McCullough Peaks as in the other areas – a woman from FOAL (Friends Of A Legacy) was in my training class at the Science and Conservation Center, and others are already trained.

We – the public, owners of our American mustangs – are being given opportunities to weigh in on the future management of our horses. People ask all the time: What can I do?

Read this document:

Write herd area manager Patricia L. Hatle, BLM-CYFO, at 1002 Blackburn Ave., Cody, WY 82414 before Feb. 22, 2011. Or  e-mail

She needs positive comments to make this annual fertility control program a success. Please support her, read the EA carefully … and, most importantly, support the mustangs of McCullough Peaks.

(Note: All photos taken during my September 2009 visit to McCullough Peaks.)

McCullough Peaks

30 10 2009

No, no, it hasn’t taken me a month to post these photos; you folks just live at the speed of life, and I live somewhat slower (behind) … Well, better late than never?

On Sept. 24, I visited McCullough Peaks Herd Management Area east of Cody, Wyo., with friends Lynn and Kathy. During my first trip to the area two years ago, I saw horses WAY far away that I just couldn’t seem to get to; it was a visit between trips to the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range and Yellowstone. This time, I did it between Yellowstone and the Pryors, and having Lynn and Kathy (and you know who!) was the magic ticket!

I had gotten some tips from excellent wild horse photographer Pam Nickoles (be sure to follow her blog, listed on the blog roll), and sure enough, her suggestions were right on! From a ridge not far from the highway, we spotted three groups of horses: four fairly nearby (maybe bachelors), a group of at least 40 that we could see were right along the road farther out and another very large group that was farther away. We headed toward the big group by the road.

McCullough Peaks has a distance rule: You have to stay at least 500 feet from the horses. Even without that rule, we wanted to be good visitors and not disrupt the horses, which seemed “exotic” to me after spending so much quality time with my Spring Creek Basin ponies! So we inched up on the horses in our vehicles, stopping at least three times to allow them to see us and allow us to make sure we weren’t causing them to break their behavior – they were right in the middle of their afternoon naps, after all. 🙂


Fortunately for our excited selves, they didn’t seem too concerned about our approach.

Our slow creep toward the horses also gave us some time to study them: Was it really one gigantic band, as it seemed? I decided there were at least five different bands gathered together. During the whole time we spent watching them, we saw just two stallions have a little conversation. Otherwise, they were all calm with each other, with horses from different bands walking past each other – including foals. Quite a bit different than I’m used to in the basin.


This guy caught our eyes immediately, because of his solo distance from the group, because of his striking good looks and because, with his head so low, I wondered at first whether he might be hurt (he wasn’t).

Finally we decided to stop the Jeeps and hike out to watch and photograph and video the horses.


The pretty-pretty sorrel mare with the foal ended up being one of my favorites, and her colt looked just like Hannah! Who does the black mare at left remind you of? She might be a 2-year-old? The stallion is the glossy seal brown/dark bay boy grazing.


We angled out toward the far side of the group to keep our distance from the bachelor, who seemed to take an interest in us.


Lots of sorrels and bays and pintos.

Meanwhile …


The striking bachelor had dropped his stealth approach and was actually walking right toward us!

Before this, we had not been paying a whole lot of attention to him, as he was grazing all the while, other than to occasionally wonder, uh, is it us, or is he closer now than he was a few minutes ago? He kept getting closer, and we kept trying to get farther away.


Pretty soon we decided we didn’t want to continue on toward the bands, and we didn’t know what to do about our curious visitor (when we were the real visitors!), so we headed back to the Jeeps. (I found out from Pam after I got back home that this is Kenya, and Pam’s photo of him and his dam was on a cover of Back in the Saddle catalog!)

I really am fairly distance challenged, whether I’m trying to figure out if something is a mile away or 500 feet away, so I totally relied on Lynn for distance judgment! I guess that just means we’ll all have to visit together again!

We decided to try to slide by them in the Jeeps, especially now that the bachelor, who had been very close to the road, was farther away, but at about that same moment in time, the horses decided they were sufficiently rested from their naps and it was time to head to water. By the time we realized that, though, they were coming up over a little rise beside the road – and beside us. I’m pretty sure we broke the distance rule or came darn close at that point, so we just froze in our tracks and let them go, taking only pictures of this group of beautiful horses!


This gorgeous black stallion had the two bay mares and the palomino filly – and who does SHE remind you of?


Another pic of her with more of the other horses around her. She’s a shade or three darker, but doesn’t she look a lot like Corona?


I loved all their colors – so rich and glossy – and they were in phenomenal condition – dare I say, almost downright fat!


That little guy got a little left behind, but no worries …


He very soon found mama, and all was well.


This black boy was pretty big – maybe a yearling? Mama was taking a power nap.


This is the sorrel mare and Hannah-look-alike colt from one of the previous pictures. Isn’t she lovely? Except for the lack of stockings, doesn’t the colt look so much like Hannah?


I would hate to know that these two were removed during the recent roundup, so, if you’re in the know, tell me only happy news or just not (that goes for any of them, really, but I just fell in love with this pretty girl) …


Who knows I am a sucker for bay horses?? Especially the dark bay/seal brown handsome ones?! 🙂

We had a break between the majority of the horses and the band of a pinto stallion bringing up the rear, so we drove on up to an intersection where we could take another road to get out of their way and at the same time watch them walk to the water hole given away by the cottonwood trees, which always look so out of place on the sagebrush flats.


I thought this was a pretty girl, too.


Not to mention these colorful lovelies!


Pinto color patterns don’t usually do much for me, but I was ga-ga over this gorgeous black and white stallion! Pam later told me his name is Rerun.


There’s the littlest baby we saw, with his very pretty (bay) mama. Some of these horses had a very refined look to them; very beautiful. This little guy or gal is just a week or (more likely) less older than Hayden (this was Sept. 24; I think Hayden was born around Sept. 22!).


More of his mares were ahead of those in this picture; I think Rerun had one of the biggest bands in that group. I do know that he was gathered during the roundup – and released, thank the pony gods and some angels. He’s just stunning.


A lot of horses, no? This shows a lot (not all) of the horses ahead of Rerun’s band going toward the water hole as seen from our vantage on the side road. And you get a little sense of the terrain out there.

When all the horses were headed toward water away from the road, we went back to the intersection and continued on – sort of north or northwest, I think. This was definitely not the part of the herd area I had visited on my previous trip.

Up on a hill close to a fence, we spotted our final band of the day, a striking group of blacks and palominos.


Now THAT’S some country! Wow, huh?? You can see the change in terrain from where the horses are and the red hills beyond – the “bench” they’re on drops off pretty dramatically there. Do you see all five horses? There’s a black stallion (the left of the three black horses), black mare and black foal, and two palomino mares – one is in the bottom right corner, butt to the camera.


A little closer …


And there’s all five horses. Pretty striking band, eh? Check out the dapples on the palominos.

We stayed up on the hill (thank goodness for long lenses) to watch these horses, which also didn’t seem bothered by our presence.

A couple of other visitors were in the herd area when we went back the way we had come, including a man from Washington state who later asked me how the aspen looked in Colorado as he was headed to the Red Mountain Pass area (north of Silverton) to shoot fall color.

L&K headed on out, and I went a different way to look for the other big group of horses we had originally seen, but except for a single dark horse, I never found them! I think L&K took that horse-finding mojo with them! 🙂

But I’ll be back to see the beautiful horses, and I thank a very special mustang angel and Pam, who is a very special mustang angel in her own right, for their help. Pam has made numerous visits to these horses, and I encourage those of you reading to view her photos and read about her visits to McCullough Peaks and elsewhere!