A 12-month study aims to explore the movement and habitat selection of wild horses in a designated herd management area in Wyoming that covers nearly half a million acres.
The project, which will involve the use of radio collars on horses, is a collaborative effort between the University of Wyoming and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the federal agency responsible for managing wild horses on US rangelands.
The study will be centered on the Adobe Town Herd Management Area.
The area in southern central Wyoming encompasses 472,812 acres, of which 444,744 are BLM-administered public lands.
The topography ranges from colorful eroded desert badlands to wooded buttes and escarpments. In between are extensive rolling to rough uplands interspersed with desert landforms and vegetated dune areas.
Winters are long and severe. Annual precipitation ranges from less than seven inches in the desert basins to more than twelve inches at some of the higher elevations.
Researchers hope to learn more about seasonal use, migration patterns, and herd movements in the area. No horses will be removed from the range as part of the project.
“The study will last for about a year and will involve collaring 30 wild mares and monitoring their movements across the range,” said Dennis Carpenter, the field manager for the BLM field office in Rawlins.
Carpenter said it was hoped the study would provide more information about how the horses interacted with their environment and would ensure the agency continued to have healthy horses on healthy rangelands.
Derek Scasta, assistant professor and extension rangeland specialist with the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management at the University of Wyoming, said the use of GPS collars would provide insights into how the horses moved into, through, and across the public-private land matrix, how they selected rangeland resources across seasons, and how often the animals moved across the Colorado-Wyoming border in the region.
“Our experience with USGS [US Geological Survey] researchers shows that these collars can be safely used on horses with a very low risk of injury.”
The BLM has opened a 30-day public comment period on the study proposal, following the release of an environmental assessment.