Are the Horses in TRNP “safe”

Another thing that is often talked about or asked as a question is “Are these horses safe?”
As we said, these horses are managed by the National Park Service (NPS) NOT the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) used to conduct round ups every couple of years using a helicopter and outriders to trap and capture the horses. The captured horses were then transported to livestock auctions in North Dakota. Horses that were not able to find a new home were usually bought up by kill buyers.
2013 was the last helicopter round up in TRNP. At the time, the herd was made up of 213 horses. 103 were removed.
2013 also brought our current Chief of Resource Management, Blake McCann, to TRNP. He came in as TRNP’s new Wildlife Biologist and the care of the horses would fall under his job description.
There were no roundups in 2014, presumably while Blake got his footing. He was quoted as not being happy with the way the horses were rounded up and sold. In 2015, he would offer a new method of rounding up and selling the horses.
The horses in TRNP are now captured using what TRNP calls “low stress” methods. Young horses between the age of 4 months old and 3 years old are targeted. They are darted with a sedation dart, put onto a sled and put into a horse trailer where they sit under the watch of NPS park staff and volunteers as well as a veterinarian until they wake up. Once they wake up, they are taken to the park’s holding pens where they will stay in a fenced in area for 2-4 weeks. During that time, they are auctioned off online on a government surplus website. No, the owners are not vetted in any way. There is also no follow up to the new owners. No one keeps track of the horses unless the new owners reach out and share information with the public. From 2015-2019, 104 horses have been captured and sold using this new “low stress” method. Over the 5-year period, only 26 horses born during that time were left in the park. Under current TRNP management practices, 18 of those 26 are eligible to be removed when they park resumes their captures. IF all 18 are removed, that would leave 8 horses born during a 5-year period.
Many of you have also asked if captured horses can be bought to be re-released back into the park. The answer is no. Once the horses are captured and sold, the park does not allow them to be released back into the wild.
Please keep in mind, this is a small population of horses. Currently, there are approximately 180 horses in this herd as of today. TRNP has openly said that they want this herd in the 30-60 horse range. Leading geneticists, like Gus Cothran, have made it clear that a minimum herd size of 120 horses is needed for genetic diversity.
2020 brought Covid-19 and that along with the extreme drought of 2021 postponed the captures of the TRNP horses. In the last 2 years, a total of only 4 horses have been captured and sold. The Park has stated that they will not be capturing any horses for the remainder of 2021.
As wild horse advocates, we are afraid of what that may mean for 2022.
pictured: 2001 Stallion Red Face – photo taken two days ago at TRNP
Thank you for your support!!

One thought on “Are the Horses in TRNP “safe”

  1. It’s apparent that genetic viability is not the parks objective, using them as lab rats is. This is failed management on steroids!

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