Adopt-a-mustang program comes to Nicholas ranch
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bureau of Land Management officials hope that Mountain State horse lovers will help put the West in West Virginia on Saturday by adopting 40 wild horses removed from Western public rangelands threatened by overgrazing.
Ranging from yearlings to 5-year-olds, the horses being made available for adoption at the Good Evening Ranch near Canvas in Nicholas County are among 7,269 wild horses gathered during the just-ended fiscal year from federal rangelands stretching from Oregon to Arizona.
"The BLM manages, protects and controls wild horses and burros under the authority of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act," said BLM Eastern States Director John Lyon. "This law authorizes the BLM to remove excess wild horses and burros from the range to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands."
The 40 wild horses up for adoption at the Nicholas County event can be previewed from 2 to 7 p.m. Friday. Adoption hours on Saturday will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with adoptions being made on a first-come, first-served basis.
Prospective adopters must have sturdy corrals that are 20 by 20 feet in diameter or larger, and at least six feet high for adult horses. For horses younger than 18 months, corral fences must be at least five feet high and have an attached shelter. Adopters must use a stock-type step-up trailer, rather than side-by-side two-horse trailers, or trailers with ramps.
A minimum adoption fee of $125 will be charged for animals less than 3 years old, with a $25 minimum fee being sought for horses 3 and older. Those adopting a horse for $125 can take home a second "buddy" animal for $25. All horses up for adoption have been examined by a veterinarian and have been vaccinated, de-wormed and blood-tested.
"While the adoption process is simple and straightforward, anyone considering adoption of a wild horse should remember that the animals are wild and require gentling and training," Lyon said.
The 40 horses up for adoption at Canvas are, in keeping with federal law, unbranded, unclaimed free-roaming horses found on Western public rangelands. They are the descendants of animals released by or escaped from Spanish explorers, American Indians, ranchers, explorers, miners or U.S. Cavalry personnel.
With no natural predators, wild horse and burro populations have been known to double within four years in some locations. Mule deer and elk often compete with the wild horses for the same grazing terrain, prompting the removal of thousands of horses from federally managed rangelands each year. BLM biologists estimate that about 37,300 wild horses and burros can be found on BLM-managed land in 10 Western states -- about 11,000 more animals than the range has capacity to support in balance with other rangeland resources and uses.
Since 1971, the BLM has adopted out more than 230,000 wild horses and burros. In recent years, the number of horses and burros being adopted has declined. During the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, a total of 2,598 of the animals had been placed in private care, compared with 5,701 horses and burros adopted during the 2005 fiscal year.
A sluggish economy, drought and rising feed costs are among reasons for the downturn in adoptions, according to Martha Malik of the BLM's Northeastern States field office in Milwaukee, Wis.
"We're anxious to see how the new adoption location in West Virginia works out for us," she said.
"We've been getting a lot of calls and emails about the adoption event," said Cindy Adkins of the Good Evening Ranch.
"The cost of grain and hay is really high these days," Adkins said, "but I don't think that will keep people from adopting these horses." The wild horses are iconic symbols of the Wild West, she said, "and we still have a lot of diehard cowboys out there who want to work with them."
BLM personnel will begin reviewing applications to adopt the horses at Good Evening Ranch on Friday, and continue on Saturday. For information, call 1-866-4MUSTANGS, visit the BLM's website at www.wildhorseandburro.blm.gov, or call Good Evening Ranch at 1-877-595-5448.
Good Evening Ranch is located at 1458 Groves Road at Canvas, about five miles east of Summersville off W.Va. 39. The last BLM wild horse adoption to take place in West Virginia occurred five years ago.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5169.