A Letter to Supporters of the Pryor Mountain Wild Horses…Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center’s Position on Recent Litigation

August 12, 2016

Dear Supporters of the Pryor Mountain Horses:

We have become aware of a recent legal Opinion that involves the Pryor Mountain Wild Horses. This is a continuation of legal action initiated by Friends of Animals (FoA), a Connecticut based animal advocacy group who unsuccessfully attempted to stop the BLM’s 2015 removal of 19 Pryor horses. Last week, Judge Susan P. Watters issued an Opinion on this litigation. While Judge Watters confirmed that the BLM acted properly in many areas, she also stated that the BLM failed to recalculate the herd’s Appropriate Management Level (AML), as outlined in the 2009 Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP).  At this point, we do not know the impact this Opinion will have on the herd.  Based on similar situations that have occurred here, we strongly believe that this Opinion could result in significant negative impacts to the herd.

Wild horse management solutions are not easy, yet we believe the Billings BLM has made great efforts to select management solutions that best ensure a healthy herd of Pryor Horses and a healthy range for them to live on while considering today’s realities. These efforts include plans tiered to the 2009 Herd Management Area Plan: projects to improve range conditions including water sources, plans to use temporary fertility control on selected mares, and plans to conduct a series of small, low-impact bait-trap removals of young horses, not only to stabilize population growth but also to ensure representation of all bloodlines on the range. This last objective is unique compared to most Herd Management Area Plans, but is consistent with goals to preserve the unique genetics on the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.

Again, this recent Opinion points to the fact that the BLM did not recalculate the AML. However, it should be noted that under the current HMAP, the BLM has been able to work to develop a thorough management strategy. The point needs to be stressed that the BLM has been very tolerant of a herd population that has exceeded the AML for many years. The fact that BLM failed to recalculate the AML prior to the 2015 removal of 19 horses does not mean that that the removal was unnecessary, as lawsuits in other states have charged; but instead reflects implementation of steps designed to plan for a series of small removals based on the annual results of previous year’s fertility control. This was largely due to a goal to work towards a genetically viable herd by ensuring that removals are carefully managed to preserve representation of existing bloodlines and genetic diversity. In developing the strategy, the BLM considered and used comments from the Mustang Center as well as other organizations and individuals who have diverse yet informed perspectives. The result is a management program that works to balance a genetically viable herd with a sustainable rangeland. Notably, this program revolves around the concept that natural management, along with small, bait trap gathers and fertility control, can allow management goals to be achieved while avoiding large scale helicopter gathers, such as the significant 2009 gather. Such a program also allows management decisions to be adaptively made based on the large amount of data that results from the continual monitoring of the herd. The BLM uses a current database of the horses on the Range that includes their observations and the observations of the public, including the Mustang Center’s comprehensive database that includes over 40 years of data on the herd.  This type of herd information is essential to monitor the population with frequency. Management decisions are made on an ongoing basis and are driven by the current demographic information of the herd. The Mustang Center believes this approach has been very successful; so far, in 2016, we are seeing the impact of the plan with a nearly equal birth/death rate. Further, the Center believes that proper conservation of the herd’s bloodlines is also occurring which goes toward ensuring the herd’s genetic health.

The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range has and could continue to serve as a model for other Herd Management Areas due to the success of the collaborative effort between the BLM, groups like ours, and individuals. So when we read of this Opinion in a local newspaper it caused great concern.  We see this Opinion based on a technicality – a misguided technicality that has the great potential to have negative impact on the herd by undermining the current practices that many individuals have worked very hard to see implemented.

We definitely understand the obstacles that arise with wild horse management. As stated above, there are no easy solutions. We also know that everyone doesn’t agree with the solutions found in the current management plan.  However, when looking to make change, we believe it should be done so with viable solutions in mind. The current Herd Management Area Plan for the Pryor Herd offers practical solutions to the public management of wild horses. Management is a delicate balance between a viable population and adequate resources in confined areas that restrict movement in search of food and water. The apparent strategy behind this lawsuit and the recent Opinion could therefore have unintended negative consequences which is of great concern to us. We keep asking, why the focus on the Pryor horses when the current HMAP offers practical and proven solutions to preserve this herd?


The Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center



Published in: on August 12, 2016 at 7:42 pm  Comments (4)  

Cheyenne Flats: May 14, 2016

The day was a bit cool today, but no rain made for a great day! We began the day with a question, “Where are Gabrielle and Banjo Paterson?” Cappuccino and his band were in a familiar spot near the mine. This was our first time seeing Jasmine back with Cap, but there were only four horses.


Cappuccino (far right) grazes with his smaller band: Blanca/Mariah and Moenkopi along with newest member, Jasmine, the beautiful blue roan.

Hernando and his two mares, Phoenix and War Bonnet were in the same area.


Hernando, War Bonnet, and Phoenix were just above Cap’s band and to the left…about 10:00 from them!

We continued the trip rounding the back of Table Top, climbing the steps up towards Cheyenne Flats. The day was cool and cloudy, but at this time of year there is a great deal of excitement about who might be on Cheyenne Flats. And today there was no disappointment!

We climbed the last steep rise onto Cheyenne Flats and our question was answered. For there we found Gabrielle and Banjo Paterson along with…her sire, Jackson.


A Family of Coyote Duns (l-r): Jackson, Banjo Paterson, and Gabrielle

Last year about this same time of year, Gabrielle left Cappuccino’s band to have her foal, Banjo. She was seen soon after with Jackson. She didn’t stay long with her sire, and ended up back with Cappuccino.

I sat there looking at the three and thought of the beautiful Broken Bow, Jackson’s mother. These three share her color. And Gabrielle might not be here today if it wasn’t for Broken Bow. During the first winter of Gabrielle’s life, somehow Broken Bow and the young weanling, ended up on their own. Broken Bow took care of the young filly and eventually brought them back to Jackson’s band. We did see Broken Bow later in the day and I want to share her photograph now along with the other three that look so much like her.


Broken Bow wasn’t with the band, but her photo adds a fourth generation to the other three pictured above.


Banjo Paterson has grown into a fine looking yearling. He is pretty woolly with his winter coat, but he is clearly displaying the sooty gene which characterizes the coyote dun.

Banjo was very intrigued by his grandsire, Jackson.


Banjo heads over to Jackson, engaging in teeth clacking. This is a behavior in which Banjo is showing submission to Jackson. I see it as a sign of “respect for elders.”


Jackson showed patience with his look-alike grandson. The two engaged in brief mutual grooming.


Published in: on May 16, 2016 at 6:42 am  Comments (2)  

Horses Far and Near

It was a privilege to go to Sykes Ridge with Ginger Kathrens and Ann Evans on the last day of April 2016. The day started out with horses in the distance. Medicine Bow and Jemez were grazing up on a high meadow on the face of Sykes. That set the stage for the rest of the day!

As we continued up the mountain and up to the mid-meadows we ran into friend, Dennis McCollough, who was scanning the area with binoculars. He pointed out several more bands including Kemmerer & Waif and Hidatsa & Belle Star.


Kemmerer had just chased Hidatsa and Belle Starr off as they were a little too close for comfort. Waif and Kemmerer are near the trees to the left.

At that same point we could also see Bolder’s band, Irial’s band, and Hamlet’s bands. We continued up the road with the knowledge that we could get much closer.

We found a good spot to look for horses and were not disappointed. We was the first “near” horses which gave us a wonderful treat!! Ginger was excited (as we all were) to see the beautiful stallion, Mica/MatoSka. He is the 2012 son of Cloud and Feldspar.For me, this sighting was incredible because of Johan. Since his birth in 2009, I had never seen Johan. And there is was!!! There was a third young bachelor stallion with the other two. It took us a minute until we realized it was Nickle. This was the first time we had seen Nickle away from his mother, Fool’s Gold, in Irial’s band.

IMG_0818 Mica and Johan

It was easy to recognize Mica/MatoSka. But who is that dun behind him???

IMG_0823 Johan

Oh man! It is Johan!! As we drove up the rocky road of Sykes, I mentioned that my day’s goal was to see Johan. And there he was. He is a beauty…reminds me much of his sire, Starbuck.

IMG_0831 Nickle

It was the dun roan color and the left hind white leg that led us to identify Nickle…now a young stallion entering a new chapter of his life.

IMG_0836 Boys

The three young stallions ran down into some trees and had a brief, harmless scuffle.

IMG_0837 Boys

The blaze on that blue roan face…Mica/MatoSka is one handsome horse!

The three horses took off running and disappeared. We walked up the hill to see if we could spot them again. But…no…they were gone! From that vantage point, though, another band was spotted to the west. It was Bolder’s band.Bolder’s band has had a major change this year. Scarlett/Velvet disappeared from the band earlier this spring. Jack Sterling had reported the band was one horse short, but we weren’t certain which one was missing. Scarlett/Velvet turned 20 last year. We’ll keep an eye out for her in case she somehow wound up in a different band. The rest of the band is accounted for including: Bolder, Sapo/Cedar, Baileys/The Black, Celt/Cascade, Lobo, and the ever persistent, Killian/Echo.

IMG_0842 Bolder

Bolder on the left. Killian/Echo on the right.

From the same lookout point, Hamlet’s band could be seen to the southeast. Hamlet has mare, Audobon and her 2016 filly, Penn. He also has Niobrara who joined the band earlier in the year. The band was resting quietly.

IMG_0851 Hamlet's Girls

Hamlet is out of the picture just to the left of the band. The three horses from left to right are: Niobrara, Penn, and Audobon.

After we turned around to head back down, it wasn’t long until we saw a horse off in the distance. We were able to quickly identify Jupiter’s band of roans.


A single horse caught our attention against the backdrop of the snowy Big Pryor.

A short hike brought us much nearer to this beautiful band. During 2015, Jupiter/Jasper had mare, Maia, and her colt Oro. During late winter or early spring, he acquired one more dun roan mare, Niyaha. Niyaha had been with her mom, Audobon, and stallion, Hamlet in 2015.


Look-Alike Mares: This is such a fun photo that shows Jupiter’s mares.

At first Jupiter grazed quietly a short distance from the mares. What a beauty! He is just unmistakable with his funnel shape face marking.


Jupiter grazes contentedly on the spring grasses.


Oro has grown into a very handsome bay roan. He was born in 2014 to Maia and stallion, Galaxy.


Something caught Jupiter’s attention and he gave us this beautiful stallion pose.

We continued on down the mountain and enjoyed the rugged beauty of the land. Sykes gives such an amazing view of Bighorn Canyon to the east. That alone is worth the trip. We got all the way to the bottom into Cougar Canyon when we saw our next “up-close” horses. This little one walked across the road in front of us.


The age and color…hmm…followed by…


A horse of this color…Hidalgo!

The two males walked across the road and took us to the rest of the band.


Fresia and Parry at the top. Morgana, Oglala, and Oak in the foreground. Fresia has the wild shyness of her mom, Buffalo Girl, and she kept her distance.


Little Parry is such a Hidalgo look-alike! It looks like he is a regular dun with the black primitive marks.


Hidalgo is a red dun with a dark mane and tail. He has light red primitive marks which indicate the red dun coloration.


Morgana and Oglala. When Oglala was first born in 2016, there was another foal born into Fools Crows band. We called that one Osage, who died soon after birth. We do not know for certain who is Oglala’s birth mom, Morgana or Icara.


Morgana is just striking! She is the daughter of Icara, born into Merlin’s band.


Oglala is a solid dark bay. He was very curious about the visitors.

We left the band and continued out of Cougar Canyon. We took the high road leading out of Sykes. This gave us the opportunity to view a few more horses from a distance. The use of a spotting scope revealed a lone horse standing high on Sykes Ridge. Persistence led us to identify the white socks and the classic face marking that could only be…Corona!


Corona has been on his own since summer 2015. He turns 19 this year. He is definitely a favorite…leading a very elusive life in the harsh country of lower Sykes.

More scoping showed us the two horses we started the day with….Medicine Bow and Jemez.


The “orange” color of both Medicine Bow and Jemez makes them fairly easy to spot from a distance.

And that was our day with horses near and far. We drove out of Sykes without seeing any other horses. But what a day! Many thanks to Ginger and Ann for letting me share this unforgettable trip to Sykes with them.










Published in: on May 5, 2016 at 6:45 am  Comments (10)  

Cheyenne Flats: 4/23/16

It was a glorious day on Cheyenne Flats. The perfect kind of spring day that was warm and sunny. The horses were abundant on Cheyenne Flats. Between horses on Cheyenne Flats and using the spotting scope to look over to Sykes Ridge, around 100 horses were counted. Today’s post is to give you snapshots of the Pryor Horses that were seen on Cheyenne Flats.

Galaxy’s Band: Galaxy’s  band is one that was pretty visible through the winter.


Galaxy and his mares, Ireland/Electra & Hera


Nirvana/Nomad became part of Galaxy’s band last summer. She is the 2013 daughter of Halcyon and Blue Moon/Flint.


Limerick is such a beauty! She is Ireland’s 2011 daughter.


One of my favorite moments of the day was seeing little Pegasus resting under a tree. She is the 2015 daughter of Ireland and Galaxy.

Jasper’s Band: What a treat to see Jasper and his band! I hadn’t seen them since late last year.

IMG_0535 Jasper

Jasper/Jack is such a beauty. He has that classic dark bay look with gold on his muzzle and flanks. He was born in 2009 to Galena and Jackson.


Jasper’s mares Ketchikan and Lariat.


Jasper’s band: Lariat and her 2014 colt, Oklahoma along with Ketchikan (far right) with her 2015 colt, Okiotak.

Gringo & Tecumseh: These two stallions continue their close bond, yet there is a definite separation of bands.




Beulah/Bella is such a beauty at this time of year.


Tecumseh/Chance with his mare Galadrial and 2014 filly, Oceana.

Hernando’s Band: Hernando’s band now consists of the two mares Phoenix and War Bonnet. They were among a large group of horses near a water guzzler on Cheyenne Flats. Hernando circled around the others and took his band down to water.


Hernando and his mares War Bonnet & Phoenix.

Knight & Nimbus/Encore: Wow! This pair is so beautiful together and both so photogenic.


Knight is a wary, young stallion. He keeps on the look out for any challenges.

Garay’s Band: It is so fun seeing Garay’s growing band. His 2015 foals, Petite Colour and Patriot are perfect playmates for one another. Noble seems to fit right in with the other mares, Jacinta and Kohl.

Garay's kids

Patriot enjoyed “bugging” sister, Petite Colour. Both are 2015 foals in Garay’s band.


Garay’s Band (l-r): Kohl, Patriot, Petite Colour, Jacinta, Noble, and Garay

Duke’s Band: It was so exciting to find Duke’s band down below the water guzzler. This was my first time seeing Helenium’s new foal. She is a beautiful little sorrel that reminds me of her big sister, Noble, shown in the photo above.

Duke's Foal

Quintasket: The filly is named in honor of Christel Quintasket, a writer, who was a one of the first published women Native American writers.

Duke's foal 2

Quintasket: 2016 filly of Duke and Helenium

Duke Aurora and Outlaw

Aurora and Outlaw Lady are two more members of Duke’s band. Outlaw Lady is Duke and Helenium’s 2014 filly.

Duke's Aurora

Aurora looked so pretty framed by the old tree.

Duke's Band

Duke, Helenium and their two girls

Mescalero’s Band: This band was grazing at the southern end of Cheyenne Flats. When I first got there, they were all resting in the sun. As I left, Cloud’s Pride was standing alone…looking very pretty!


Cloud’s Pride at the end of the day.

Cappuccino’s Band: Cappuccino’s band was down below Table Top by the guzzler.


Banjo Paterson was the first member of Cap’s band that I saw. He was standing at the top of a hill, clearly visible for quite a distance. He is the 2015 son of Cappuccino and Gabrielle.


Cappuccino was resting by an old juniper bush while his band grazed nearby.


Cappuccino’s mares from left to right: Blanca/Mariah, Moenkopi, and Gabrielle. Naara has recently left the band to be with Garcia.

Searching Sykes: There were lots of horses on Sykes Ridge. It takes a little time, patience, and a spotting scope to identify the horses. Bands seen were: Flint (including little Quanah), Irial, Bolder, Morning Star, Hidalgo, and a couple unidentified.


On a ridge you can see lots of horses….this includes Flint’s band to the left and Irial’s band on the right.

two bachelors on Sykes.jpg

All-in-all it was a very successful day on the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.

by: Nancy Cerroni


Published in: on April 24, 2016 at 12:41 pm  Comments (9)