July 16, 2010 – Reality

I answer many questions for people about the horses. Some of the more commonly asked questions relate to such things as good viewing areas, who individual horses are, and the like. Lately, though, I’ve been getting more and more questions that relate to some particular things people have heard about here in the Pryors. It culminated yesterday with someone asking me about things they had read about in a recent mailing they’d received. Based on all of this, I have a conclusion worth sharing: There are definitely some dramatic things being said about the current activities up here; and most, if not all, of these things are simply not true.

I just really want everyone to know that there is a lot of this type of misinformation out there. There’s no real reason that this should be happening. In my opinion, it isn’t helping out with much of anything. In fact, I feel that it is actually hurting things. If you have any questions about what is going on up here, I’d invite you to ask. You can contact us here at the Center or contact the employees of the BLM’s Billings Field Office. There’s nothing being held back. In fact, up here we are really proud of the way many things are going; and we wish we were able to talk about them more than we do now. Thank you very much!

Photo taken on July 14, 2010

Published in: on July 16, 2010 at 3:28 pm  Comments (26)  

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26 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Very well put. It still amazes me – even now – just how much misinformation is out there, but even more so the amount that is put out there intentionally.
    Thanks for the info.

  2. Hi Matt,
    I don’t know what you’re referring to and if it’s anything negative I don’t want to know!
    My husband and I really love seeing the horse pictures and reading the information that you provide. It is very much appreciated.
    Thank you so much.

  3. What a beautiful picture of Juniper (she sure is long legged right now)—and is that Celt in the background? The lupines look so pretty, as well. I wish I were there. I’m going to see if I can round up another horse lover to share expenses with me to get out there again. Hope to see you sooner rather than later.

    I’m glad you have spoken your mind, and really wish you didn’t need to. I just hope the right people visit this site and see what you have to say. I may share more of my opinion at a later time, but will not use up space right now.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. I totally agree with Debbie Kimzeys statement! I always look forward to your wonderful updates and pictures! Thanks again Matt!

  5. I’m happily ignorant of the rumours and such. I just enjoy your updates and photos. They’re very special and they do more to spread the truth than any rumour will to spread untruths.

  6. I agree with all the others but I do think you should be more specific and state the false hood so folks would know what has been said and be prepared to refute it themselves. There is so much wild horse information and mis information right now and we need to be armed with the truth to protect the wild horses and to help the people who are protecting the wild ones! HOw are those guzzler coming? I love the whoel idea of water catchment in dry areas. Just good sense seems to me!

  7. Hello Matt and thank you for the update, but like many people “out here,” I have no idea what “dramatic things” and “misinformation” you are talking about.

    I exchanged email this week with Debbie Collins, marketing specialist for the BLM “National WH & B Team” on a related issue. In response to a suggestion by Ms. Colllins that the public may not be hearing “the BLM side” in the stories on wild horses and burros that are “being cycled to the public,” I encouraged Ms. Collins “to be more explicit about what you mean. The public may be smarter than you think.” I repeat that advice here.

    When you write things such as “most, if not all, of these things are simply not true” and “we wish we were able to talk about [the way many things are going] more than we do now,” without giving specifics about what is true and what is not, what is going well and what is not, you just give rise to more questions and create more suspicion. Please try to be specific and explicit.

  8. Hello all,
    Thanks for the comments! I just really don’t want to get into all of this anymore than what I wrote here. I answered one question in this blog for a concerned person; this related to the Pryor horses directly (apparently they had been told that this yearling pictured had been removed last September). I just wanted people to be aware that this is going on. If something sounds too good (or bad) to be true, it very well could be. In a world with two general extremes (“the BLM” versus “the advocates”), it is often that the truth really does lie somewhere in the middle. I am not saying that these different sides are being liars, but it is easy to go a little too far with certain information. I want to keep this blog on track with what I know many of you want – News on the horses. I think that through this, the reality of the Pryor Mountain Wild Horses comes through clear enough.
    I’ll be continuing this tonight or tomorrow with some really fun photographs and a writeup on how Stiles is doing at his new home in New Mexico.
    Thanks again,

    • she surely is a pretty girl!

    • Can”t wait to hear about Stiles. I read today that the nat.forest service wants to fence off part of the Pryors land and keep the horses out of some of the meadows they have used for years. Is that true? Thanks for the beautiful pictures and keeping us informed about the horses. It helps us to feel like we know them too. You do a great job. Thanks so much

      • The Forest Service does currently have plans to reconstruct the north boundary fence. This is a complex topic with many layers; I think I will do some posts on it to better explain the whole story to everyone.

  9. Post this every month!


    • This is a great idea Janet! I live in Estes Park, where people walk right up to elk thinking they are “tame” so it’s not unique to the wild horses. There are articles in both the newspapers continuously educating visitors on acceptable behavior around the elk who are everywhere in town.
      There are “accidents” every year where people are hurt by protective elk cows or bulls who are in Rut. I think it’s a great idea that people be reminded consistently to respect the horses. Another concern I have is the number of ATV drivers we encountered on the mountain last weekend. They were riding off-road all behind Penn’s cabin, totally disrespectful of not only the horses but the land too. Matt, can you suggest to the BLM and forest service on adding some signage (which is terribly lacking): warning precautions to people about horses and explanation of rules of ATV use in the area. It seems this is all part of BLM’s “managing the public land” for the benefit and welfare of people and the animals.

      • I’m all for these ideas. It really can be a problem here in the Pryors. Over in the McCullough Peaks they actually have signs at each HMA entrance explaining that everyone should maintain a good distance. As for the ATVs, I think that this is another area where education may help a lot. There are some local individuals ATV clubs that go up there and are very respectful of the horses and the resources. Others, though, just think they can go anywhere on their ATVs. Based on some information I’ve heard, I would anticipate that there will be more “official” rules in place on these topics in the future.

  10. Matt, when was PZP first used in the Pryors?

    Wasn’t it said at that time that there would not need to be any more gathers from then on?

    I thought I read that somewhere along the line on the internet — in an article published by a university or something.

    Obviously 20/20 hindsight we all have; however, how much did the spin “that no more gathers would be required” after use of PZP affect the acceptance of use of PZP in the Pryors.
    Were you associated with the Pryor Mountain Center when PZP was first used there?


    • Hello,
      The very first PZP treatment here occurred on September 17, 2001. I wasn’t associated with the Center then – I was a senior in high school at that point.

      It has been said, and it even continues to be said, that PZP could really reduce or eliminate the need for gathers in the Pryors. When this is said, it is in the scientific context of things. When you factor in the political side of things, though, this changes it all. Litigation, bureaucracy, and the like can (and most certainly has here) significantly affect the ability for proper fertility control programs to be implemented and carried out. In the Pryors, there were also studies going on that affected the way in which PZP was administered. What is on the ground now, as far as treated mares goes, is more of a management-level fertility control program. There should be a population effect observed next year; the 2011 foal crop should be significantly below average. I say should here. This is for something I’ll elaborate more on in a future post. But for now, let’s just keep our eyes on 2011.

      It’s funny, there was this rumor going around (still is maybe?) about the year 2011. I’d been explaining this possibility before and after the gather last year to describe how a good program could have a population effect and reduce or eliminate the need for gathers. I explained that this would start in 2011 due to the lag time of PZP. Somehow, though, this all got twisted into me having knowledge of some big bad event that would happen in 2011. But I’m sorry to say, it isn’t so dramatic; I was just again referring to the fact that a population effect would be observed at the earliest in 2011.

  11. I’d like to know how many cougars (roughly of course) hunt in the Pryors? are there enough of them to help control the herd growth? I know in 2004, I think, the big cats kept the foal crop down to one foal, but they ahvne’t been so dramatic recently.

    • This is actually going to be the subject of an upcoming study in the area. This is a question I have inquired about, though. Here is a paragraph from a letter I received from Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks this winter:

      While there is no way to monitor population levels of lions, we do closely track harvest levels. Lion harvest in a habitat like the Pryor Mountains is variable because it is dependent on snow conditions. Some years are good for hunting lions and some years aren’t. Between 1996-97 and 2004-05, the average annual harvest of lions from the Pryors was 1.8/year. No lions were killed in either 2000-01 or 2003-04. Three lions were killed each year in 1998-99, 2001-02, and 2004-05. Other years saw the harvest of one or two cats. In the long-term lion harvest has been stable. The lion population appears to be stable and robust.

      Further, I have heard a rumor that the BLM paid to have lions killed back in the early 2000’s. My letter also addresses this: “…it would have been strictly illegal for the BLM to have paid anybody to kill lions, and there is obviously no indication from the data of increased harvest anyway.” The letter is really informative; it may be worth seeing about having a copy available for reading here sometime.

      As a note, there will be a study going on later this year to get an idea of what the lion population is up to in this area.

      • Thank you.

  12. Thanks for the good info. The more ACCURATE information you can give here, the less SPECULATION there MAY be. However, it seems as tho there are a few people who are going to spin what is said to fit their own ideas, no matter what. Aaaah, the joys of dealing with the public.

    I say, as I’ve said many times before, that visitors to this blog should look over all the information on the site before they come to conclusions about any single statement or idea.

    And I’m still very glad the horses have you and all the other people in your local support organization to try to help with workable solutions to issues concerning the horses, including the ones between the BLM and advocacy groups. Each has their own mission, and it seems that they have “difficulty” seeing anything from the other’s point of view—which would help in coming up with the best possible solutions with the least suffering on the part of the horses.

    Just hang in there Matt, and keep being the “boots on the ground” for the horses. History will reflect the wisdom of your ways.

    Is that pretty Juniper a filly or a colt? I tried to find your last reference to that one to answer my own queston, but haven’t yet. I’m thinking I may have referred to that horse as “she”, in error.

    On the cougars question, I’d really rather know how many horses have been killed by cougars than how many cougars have been killed by hunters. As in any survey, there are lots of variables, like “how many hunters were out there hunting?” and, “how many were able to harvest it if they saw a cougar to shoot?”

    Looking forward to reading your next posts…as always.

  13. About the disrespectful visitors to the PMWHR; it would probably be very helpful to the BLM (who can’t constantly patrol the whole range), to take still pictures or video of the persons and their machines when they are breaking the rules, hopefully showing closeups of license plates and facial features of people for identification, and turn the information in to the BLM office for possibe action.

    If this happened enough times, maybe it would serve as a deterrent to violators if there are respectful folks in the area with cameras. Then you just have to worry about when no one is around…

  14. Have any horses ever been added to the Pryor Mountain herd? When? Why?

    • Yes, horses were added to this herd. I really believe that the same holds true for every other herd that currently exists. The difference is that we actually know the details of introduced horses here. I have looked pretty close at the history of these horses here. I know of a few outside horses here in the late 70’s, but most of them arrived (and left) in the late 80’s and early 90’s. As far as I have been able to find by talking with people, they were brought in because there were fears that the herd was getting inbred. Apparently, a pretty top geneticist actually came here and met with the Pryor managers. He took a look around the horses. He then asked if the horses were healthy and if they were producing healthy, successful offspring. To these questions, the managers answered “Yes.” With that, the geneticist told them that they don’t have anything to worry about. I actually take this story pretty seriously. This guy definitely knew what he was talking about. He had been in charge of many successful conservation projects. He didn’t care about numbers or anything, he cared about the ways in which inbreeding depression could manifiest (i.e. the herd wasn’t able to successfully reproduce). With this information, and likely further information, the introduction of outside horses seemed to have died out. Shortly after all of this, the blood-typing of the herd started; and that basically led us into today’s realm of genetics here.

  15. Thank you, Matt.

  16. Matt, HI! You spoke about specific Horses that Were ADDED to (&/0r REMOVED from) the Pryor HERD…..”Yes, horses were added to this herd…we actually know details of introduced horses here. I have looked pretty close at history of these horses,,know a few outside horses in late 70â€ēs, but most arrived (& left) in late 80â€ēs–early 90s”
    …so, * Could you give us/me the DETAILS that U do know–about the Added HORSES ?? & their Offspring, if it’s not already obvious???
    Where did they Come FROM? & Where did they GO?
    —I “TRY” to keep up running Family Trees & Band composition, too ! so this info would be Very Helpful 🙂
    [also, Makendra sent 2007 Herd & Band Composition charts to me; & I was able to DOWNLOAD ones from 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005….but I can No longer FIND anywhere such charts are posted on-line!]
    Do you know WHY–it is no longer available?
    & better yet, ??DO YOU HAVE Access to these Herd CHARTS that you could SHARE??? 🙂

  17. Oh! and *Thank You*, in advance—for any Help & Information that you can SHARE with us ! 😉

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