By Garrett Ammesmaki
Cody Enterprise 

Filly dies during horse gather


February 1, 2024

Via Wyoming News Exchange

CODY — A yearling died during the capture of 10 horses on Monday, Jan. 22, in the McCullough Peaks herd Management area.

The foal, named Kat Ballou, died from acute head and neck trauma, according to a report from the Bureau of Land Management.

Ballou’s death has spurred an outcry from interest groups and local herd photographers, some of which have been critical of BLM’s gather in McCullough Peaks, and all of whom are shocked by the death of the young filly.

Ballou and her mother were among 10 horses that were gathered.

“When discovered on Jan. 24, the sorrel mare was immediately taken to a veterinarian in Cody, Wyoming for a necropsy,” said Sarah Beckwith, public affairs officers with BLM Wyoming. “The veterinarian determined that the horse died of head trauma, likely from running into a post in the corral.”

The year-old filly died from trauma to the head and neck “caused by an attempt to escape from the corral,” according to an update from Friends of a Legacy.

Although FOAL has no authority over BLM decisions, the advocacy made a suggestion in its update on how future gatherings should be conducted.

“During the selection process to decide which horses should be released and which be retained, those selections should be made based upon consultations involving at least two people who have made extensive observations involving herd dynamics,” said FOAL. “Whenever a strong bond is observed between a mare and her offspring, that pair of animals should not be separated. Either they should both be released, or they should both be retained.”

The 10 horses that were gathered on January 22 were the first for the BLM gather, which is scheduled through March, according to the BLM website.

Of the four horses that were successfully removed on January 22, two were stallions and two were mares.

Local photographer Tony Douzenis was one of the multiple people that reached out to the Cody Enterprise after the death of the yearling was brought to light.

Douzenis said he has documented the wild horses of McCullough Peaks for five years in hopes to “show the world they are more than just numbers and animals on a spreadsheet.”

“These horses, like you and me, have families and have emotions,” said Douzenis. “They don’t deserve to be removed from land that is supposed to be their land.”

Douzenis went on to criticize the bait-trap gather, saying that young foals should not be removed from their mothers and that the death of Ballou is “unacceptable.”

Beckwith said that injuries to wild horses during gathers are rare, and the vast majority of animals collected for BLM testing in previous cases (98 to 99 percent) are gathered without severe incident or injury.

“BLM staff have strictly adhered to the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program throughout the gather,” said Beckwith. “The Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program outlines required best practices and humane handling standards that prioritize the health and well-being of the wild animals.”


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