Local wild horses hydrate thanks to sources, volunteers | Western Colorado

Renee Edel discovers that she doesn’t need to lead the wild horses of the Little Book Cliffs into the water, let alone try to get them to drink.

Judging by the “highway” horse trails leading directly to the water sources she found while racking up miles as a volunteer in the local wild horse area, the Grand Junction resident learned that these creatures smart and resourceful know where to stay hydrated even in a dry year like this.

“They know this line better than anyone,” said Edel.

But Edel and some of the other volunteers who work with the Bureau of Land Management to support the herd also know the homeland of the local horses very well and work hard there to ensure the welfare of the animals. In years like this, that meant doing what they could to help horses have access to water despite the drought.

So far this year, water from the area’s springs – some captured in reservoirs maintained by volunteers before it can seep into the ground – has been found to be sufficient to meet the animals’ needs. But some springs are drying up, and the BLM and the local Friends of the Mustangs volunteer group are monitoring the situation closely to see if conditions become bad enough for additional water to be carried.

The situation is worse for the Piceance-East Douglas herd southwest of Meeker and the Sand Wash Basin herd outside Craig. Ben Smith, a wild horse and burro specialist for the BLM’s Northwest Colorado District, said in an interview on June 30 that the additional water haulage for the Sand Wash herd has started, and the same has been said. was considered in the case of Piceance-East Douglas horses. because some of the water sources have dried up there. Groups of volunteers also work with the BLM in these two areas to help the horses.

Water availability for the Spring Creek Basin herd, which sits between Norwood and Dove Creek, appears to be fair so far, Smith said. He said improvements to store water in this area have also been made over the years.

Smith said there is a possibility that the water haul may have to take place in the case of the Little Book Cliffs herd before the summer is over, just as haulage has occasionally had to happen in the past.

For now, some water sources are drying up, but there are some good alternative sources that horses can use, he said.

Edel is pleased with the conditions of the horses she sees in the Little Book Cliffs area, both in person and in photos from the hunting cameras she watches. She does not sense that the horses are in danger or in difficulty regarding the availability of water or fodder.

“We’re really going to keep watching because we know we’re kind of in a new situation with this heat and water, but right now I think (the horses) are doing great,” he said. she declared.


Judy Cady, 65, who monitors water tanks in the Little Book Cliffs area, fixes leaks and the like, shares Edel’s generally positive assessment of how the herd is weathering the drought.

“Our horses, they are doing well. They have to move around to fetch water, but from the tanks I have been working on I still have good working sources (to fill them up) which is a good thing if I can just keep the tanks stationary . “

Long-time wild horse volunteer Marty Felix, now 73, no longer hits the beach as much as he used to and takes comfort in the efforts of others to monitor the situation and work on improvements .

“We have good people going over there, let me tell you,” she said.

But she finds the current situation “a little worrying”.

“I’ve seen things dry up here,” Felix said. “I saw things go wrong in a hurry.”

She said an emergency raid and the removal of some local horses was needed in 2002, another dry year. And the transport of water occurred during dry conditions not in summer but in winter.

Smith said BLM officials were submitting requests to agency headquarters to conduct emergency rallies and withdrawals of certain horses in the case of the Piceance-East Douglas and Sand Wash Basin herds due to concerns about the suitability of forage for them given conditions. But he said forage is more of a concern for these two herds because their populations are each more than three times higher than their designated appropriate management levels, or AMLs.

Smith said the Little Book Cliffs herd size is close to their AML and the Spring Creek herd is in their AML, so adequate forage should be available for them.


Edel can confidently talk about the hidden sources of fodder and spring water available to Little Book Cliffs horses due to all of the time she spends on the horse course. A horse lover since childhood, she practiced endurance sports. Now that she’s older and doesn’t run much errands, she instead devotes her free time and abundant energy to hiking and biking the horse course, devoting a few thousand hours a year to it.

“I know the range very, very well,” she said.

It manages all the game cameras in the range. Images captured by cameras can help volunteers and BLMs monitor things like the condition of animals. Edel also systematically searched for sources on the massif and communicated their GPS coordinates to the BLM.

This effort allowed Edel to discover that more than 100 sources are on the channel. Often, equestrian trails indicated the way.

“I think there are more (springs) out there, actually,” said Edel.

She said the horse range is a beautiful place with sites that casual visitors tend not to see, such as slot canyons and other microclimates that may contain oases of trees and ponds. unexpected water.

During his tours, Edel also monitors the condition of the tanks.

“Right now, in this heat and drought, we really want to stay on top,” she said.


Cady’s mission is to monitor and maintain the range’s water tanks, from plugging leaks to leveling sloped tanks that risk slipping downhill.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve always worked on these tanks, ”said Cady, now 65.

One, the “Lost Judy” tank, even bears her name because she tracked it down after it turned out to be hard to find.

Cady said she used to get more help working on the tanks, but a lot of the volunteers are getting older and can no longer do the job. Recently, Cady enlisted the help of a group of young workers from the Western Colorado Conservation Corps that Friends of the Mustangs was able to hire with grants. Cady joined some of the corps crew to endure one hundred degree heat, midges and steep treks to get the work done on the tanks, while other corps workers helped with the fencing work and to other projects on the shooting range.

Cady appreciated the young and spirited help.

“We have done a lot of work. It was good, ”she said.

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