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Plan to trim famous wild horse herd condemned

August 27, 2009

The life of wild mustang Cloud has been documented since his birth. His herd, from the Pryor Mountains in Montana, is under threat of being rounded up and "removed".

August 28 - National call in day

Animal advocates are rallying over plans in the western rangelands to reduce 12 herds, including that of a wild stallion made famous by a documentary maker.

Cloud is a pale palomino who lives living in the Pryor Mountains of Montana.

He has been documented from the day of his birth by Emmy-winning filmmaker Ginger Kathrens, whose films about the horse, "Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies" and "Cloud's Legacy: The Wild Stallion Returns" represent the only on-going documentation of a wild animal in the northern hemisphere.

Kathrens has written two books about Cloud and the Cloud Foundation was set up with aim of preserving wild horses on public lands, as well as Cloud's herd.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), responsible for wild herd management on the rangelands, plans to begin operations in the Pryor Mountains from September 1.

"The wild horses of Montana's Pryor Mountains are world famous but fame it appears is not going to protect the herd from this drastic government round-up," said Kathrens, who is volunteer executive director of the founation.

"We are doing everything we can through political and legal avenues to save Cloud's herd but BLM is set on putting helicopters in the air starting around September 1st. They plan to round up all the horses and remove over 70, including older horses, mares and foals.

"The BLM and the Department of Interior are not listening to the public," she said. "They appear to be disregarding even Dr Gus Cothran, a noted equine geneticist, who told the BLM - again - that this unique Spanish herd must be managed at minimum levels of 150-200 to keep the herd viable."

One of Cloud's newest daughters, who has been named Windflower.
Katrens said there are currently only 190 wild horses aged one year and older living in the Pryor Mountains. The BLM plans to remove 70 of them, plus foals.

"These 70 horses would be placed in jeopardy. Any horses over 10 years of age can be bought directly by killer buyers and transported over the Northern border to Canadian slaughterhouses or south into Mexico.

"Younger horses not adopted would be put into government holding with 33,000 others that the BLM has removed from the wild and has proposed killing because they can no longer afford to feed them."

Kathrens said the bureau cited poor range conditions for the need to remove horses. "But abundant snow and rain for the past two and a half years has produced wonderful range conditions according to all who have visited Cloud and his herd.

"The agency is not listening to anyone. They want this herd gutted."

She believes the helicopter round-up is just one among many that the bureau is trying to complete "before the Obama Administration can catch up with what is going on".

The Pryor Mountain wild horses are believed to be descendents of the Lewis and Clark horses stolen by the Crow Indians in the early 1800s. They can be traced further back to the horses brought over with the Spanish Conquistadors in 1500, which Kathrens believes makes them the most Spanish of all wild horse herds in North America.

The Pryor Mountain muster is part of a BLM plan to remove 650 horses off 1.4 million acres of rangeland. The ongoing operation will affect 12 herds.

Cloud, above, and below, a mare and foal from his herd.

Kathrens, who continues to film the herd, said: "Many of the horses you have come to love in the Cloud shows - and will meet in the new Cloud show on October 25 - will lose their families and their freedom next week.

"By zeroing out whole herds and reducing others to below genetic viability, the BLM is circumventing the will of Congress. The House just passed the Restoring of American Mustangs (ROAM) act and the Senate will review this bill (now S.1579) when they return from recess in September.

"Is BLM just trying to do as much irrevocable damage to America's wild horses as they can before Congress can act?"

The foundation has declared August 28 as National Call-in Day for Cloud and urged people to act against the planned muster (details appear in the footer).

"These horses need to be preserved for future generations," she said.



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