BUTTE - Approximately 225 wild horses have arrived on schedule at Spanish Q Ranch, near Ennis.
More horses are on the way, with close to 700 geldings expected to be on the ranch by the end of March, a Bureau of Land Management wild horse specialist said on Monday.
The wild horses arrived in six separate truckloads beginning on Feb. 27. The total was less than expected because bad weather in Oklahoma prevented some horses from being transported.
The horses will be kept on feeding grounds of approximately 40 to 50 acres until June when they will be released to larger pastures at the 15,456-acre privately owned ranch, according to the BLM.
The horses are being moved from short-term holding facilities in Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Oklahoma where the cost per day, per head averages $5.50, while at the long-term Spanish Q facility the cost per day, per head will be $1.36.
Lili Thomas, a BLM wild horse and burro specialist, was at the ranch overseeing the move. She said the horses are doing well as they go about establishing a pecking order and acclimating to their new home. Thomas said all the horses have been in holding facilities for an average of one to two years, so they are familiar with feeding and fencing. Some of the horses were born in these holding facilities, Thomas said.
The horse transfer has been in the works since 2009.
Neighbors of the Spanish Q filed appeals against the move in December 2012, and despite the fact that the Interior Board of Land Appeals has yet to rule on those appeals, the BLM went ahead with the move. The BLM had the right to do so because the IBLA did not rule on the pending appeals within 45 days, according to the BLM.
If the IBLA rules against the BLM, the newly arrived wild horses would have to be moved yet again, most likely returned to short-term holding facilities.
However, Carolyn Chad, acting deputy division chief for the National Wild Horse and Burro Program, expects it to be a year or more before the IBLA holds a hearing on the appeals in question.
The BLM was mandated to manage wild horses and burros by the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971. The BLM estimates there are over 37,000 wild horses and burros roaming BLM rangeland in 10 western states. The agency believes that number is 11,000 more than can adequately coexist with other resources on those rangelands.
Periodically these wild horses and burros are rounded up off the open range and housed in short-term and long-term holding facilities. About 49,000 exist in these holding facilities.
Presently, Montana has wild horses only in one BLM management area in the Pryor Mountains south of Billings. The Spanish Q Ranch is the first holding facility in Montana. The contract between the BLM and Spanish Q is for ten years.