BLM Wheatland Off-Range Corral to reopen for wild horse and burro adoptions

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WHEATLAND – The Bureau of Land Management’s Wheatland Off-Range Corral is reopening for wild horse and burro adoptions this spring after a yearlong closure, according to Tyson Finnicum, public affairs specialist with the Bureau of Land Management high plains district.

“To celebrate its reopening, the BLM is offering approximately 700 wild horses and burros in an online adoption event scheduled for March 13-20,” Finnicum said. “More wild horses may be included for adoption prior to the event.” 

The closure and lack of adoptions last year, according to JJ Nolan, wild horse and burro facility manager, was due to an illness in the herd called strep equine or “strangles.” According to the University of Minnesota, “Strangles is a highly contagious infection that causes fever, nasal discharge and abscesses near swollen lymph nodes. Hot packs can help the abscesses mature before opening and flushing them out. Horses that struggle to breathe may need antibiotics or hospital care.”

“We’re spread out enough here to slow it down,” Nolan said. “But we’re not quite spread out enough to stop it. Right now, we have over 2800 horses here, a bit up from last year with the new foals that number probably 250. Eventually they will be adopted out too after they are prepped and vaccinated. That will be at least six months. The males will take a little longer as they have to be gelded.”

This initial auction will be an “online corral” and the BLM hopes to do live adoptions as soon as the logistics are worked out as to the liability issues because the corral is on private land.

The virtual adoption event is coordinated through the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Online Corral at https://wildhorsesonline.blm.gov/. Bids start at $125. Pickup location options are available and are listed on individual animal profiles in the online corral.

According to Nolan, some of the animals that are won by bid may still qualify for the BLM’s adoption incentive to pay the new horse owner $1,000 for each horse adopted. The bidding at the virtual auction starts at $125 and goes as high as people want to go.

“Folks have been waiting patiently for over a year to see and adopt these animals and we are equally eager to start adoptions again,” Nolan said. “The online corral provides the perfect opportunity to share a lot of really nice animals to the largest audience possible while dodging any weather events that would impact a March in-person adoption.”

While the animals offered in the online event will range widely in age, mares gathered from the 2021 Wyoming Checkerboard gather will not be offered at this time, as many of them foaled after arriving to the Wheatland corral. Those mares will be available for adoption at a later date to avoid separating mares and foals prematurely.

Prior to the adoption, interested buyers must complete an online application, browse the individual animal profiles, and learn more about the rules and requirements for adopting a wild horse at https://wildhorsesonline.blm.gov/.

In addition to the online adoption, the BLM plans to hold a public tour of the Wheatland Off-Range Corral April 14 and an in-person adoption event April 28.

“We’re still figuring out a lot,” Nolan said. “That’s our plan currently but there’s still a lot to get ironed out. “For future updates on these events, follow BLM Wyoming on Facebook or Twitter, or visit https://www.blm.gov/whb.”

In addition to the online auction and the actual first live onsite adoption, there are more adoptions planned.

“The plan right now, is to do the fourth Friday of every month from April to October,” Nolan said. “As for how many we’d like to adopt out, personally, I’d love to get them all placed. As to how many I think will be adopted, I stopped trying to guess at events. I can look and see that we have 100 big, flashy animals and like 20 people show up. And then another time we have 50 horses that are plain and they all go.”

Nolan said that all the horses are wild and untrained with the exception of maybe a few who have come back from homes where the owners either fell on hard times or realized they couldn’t take care of a horse. Horses can be taken to local ranches where they can find private trainers to get the horses ranch ready.

As for where the horses were harvested, Nolan said that most of the horses were all gathered in Wyoming.

“For the most part, they have been gathered from Wyoming,” Nolan said. “We do have some from Nevada, but they were shipped here when the facility first opened. So, we have some Nevada mares. Some of these mares got here in January of 2021, so they are ready to find their new home. We were all primed and ready for the adoptions and then the strangles came in and they’ve been here ever since.”

The life these horses lead is not always as adverse as on the wild prairies where the food supplies are not enough to sustain the herds.

“Just like us, these horses have their own personalities,” Nolan said. “Even working through the chute like we’re doing today, getting blood drawn and doing a Coggins test, you can tell the ones who are still ‘Nope, I want nothing to do with this.’ And then you have the other ones who are definitely a little softer eyed and they’re ready to start. Here it’s even a little better than the wild. At least here they have heated water and a big pile of hay every single day. They’ve got it pretty made here, but we definitely want to see these horses out into their forever home.”

As for adopting two rather than one for socialization, Nolan is definitely an advocate.

“I always say, if you’re going to get one, you might as well get two,” Nolan said. “Personality is the key. Each one of these guys is different. There are a couple of horses we noticed as we were drawing blood the other day that they came through one right after the other. The next time they came through those same horses again came through together, so I think those should definitely stay together.”

Whether you want a hearty stocked Mustang for riding or competing or you are looking for a pasture pet, one of the best ideas is to find a horse who needs a home and providing a home for your forever horse.