Wild horse adoption auction at Haine June 5

May 20, 2004 12:00 am
There are an estimated 40,000 wild horses in the West. About 3,000 live in Oregon. (Photo courtesy U.S. Bureau of Land Management).
There are an estimated 40,000 wild horses in the West. About 3,000 live in Oregon. (Photo courtesy U.S. Bureau of Land Management).

By JAYSON JACOBY

Of the Baker City Herald

The thundering hooves of the Old West will gallop into Haines ahead of schedule this year.

And they'll trail in their dusty wake a taste of the Wild West that once was.

On June 5, a month before the annual Haines Stampede rodeo, the BLM will auction 12 wild horses and three wild burros at the rodeo grounds.

But you won't need to hang on for eight seconds, or throw a lasso, to drive away with one of these animals.

You will, however, have to qualify as an adopter.

To be eligible to adopt a wild horse or burro from BLM you must:

o Be at least 18 years old

o Have facilities suitable for a horse

o Have no history of mistreating animals

Prospective adopters can have their applications approved prior to the Haines auction, or at the rodeo grounds on auction day, said Jim Johnson, the wild horse and burro specialist for BLM's Vale District.

To get an application, call Johnson at 541/473-3144.

He said applications also will be available soon at BLM's office at 3165 10th St. in Baker City.

BLM officials captured the 12 horses and three burros late last year, Johnson said.

Most of the animals roamed the rangelands of Southern Idaho, but a few came from a Southeastern Oregon herd, he said.

BLM rounds up wild horses and burros occasionally to ensure the animals don't overpopulate the public lands they share with domestic livestock as well as deer and pronghorn antelope.

The agency has found homes for about 270,000 wild horses and burros since 1975, Johnson said.

The agency usually schedules auctions at one of its large wild horse corrals, such as the one near Burns, Johnson said.

But occasionally BLM conducts smaller "satellite" auctions elsewhere.

Next month's event in Haines will be the first ever in that town, and the first in several years in Northeastern Oregon, Johnson said. The most recent auction in this region took place in Pendleton about six years ago, he said.

Johnson said Baker County residents have adopted a fair number of wild horses over the past decade or so.

He estimates that Northeastern Oregon residents have adopted more than 100 wild horses and burros during that period.

"We actually have more wild horses adopted in the northern part (of BLM's Vale District) than the south," Johnson said.

About 3,000 wild horses and burros live in Oregon, he said, most of them in Harney and Malheur counties.

Johnson said the 15 animals that will be available at the Haines auction range in age from 2 to 4 years.

He said BLM officials picked the largest, sturdiest animals for the Haines auction.

"We choose the best animals for these satellite auctions," he said. "Our goal is to not have to haul any (animals) back."

To ensure that adopters care for their animals, BLM holds the ownership title to wild horses and burros for at least one year after the animals are sold.

During that year a BLM official will visit the adopter's property at least once to check on the animals, Johnson said.

If the horses and burros are healthy after a year, BLM will transfer title to the adopters.

Johnson said the agency occasionally reclaims a horse from an adopter, although such cases are rare.

"Sometimes the animal is not well-fed, or it has not been wormed," he said.

In those situations BLM tries to work with adopters to make sure they understand the minimum amount of care the agency requires for wild horses.

"We try to help explain what they need to do to correct a violation," Johnson said.

A more common problem with wild horses involves adopters who sell animals during the one-year probation period, before BLM has transferred title, he said.

That's illegal, and it prompts BLM to reclaim the animal immediately, Johnson said.