Op-Ed: BLM Removes Beloved Foal to Send a Message to Advocates

Thora, the popular foal born to the McCullough Peaks herd has been captured by the Wyoming Bureau of Land Management. Scott Beckstead offers his take on why this foal has been removed. Read on for more:

By Scott Beckstead

The Wyoming Bureau of Land Management has thrown a giant middle finger in the face of the American taxpayers who support wild horses on public lands by trapping and removing Baby Thora, a six month-old pinto filly who is arguably the most famous wild horse on the western range. Thora is so beloved because she is the spitting image of her father, Thor, who is also uniquely marked, hugely popular, and beloved by his fans across the world. When Thora was born it was a foregone conclusion that the BLM would conduct its bait and trap removal operations to drive the McCullough Peaks herd to eventual extinction, despite receiving overwhelming public opposition to their plan, which benefits just six ranchers who graze their livestock on the McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Herd Management Area. The BLM saw all the photos and posts about Thora by photographers and advocates who were elated at her birth, just as they saw that from the moment she was born people were pleading with the BLM to allow her to stay wild and free on the range with her family.

Thora and her father, Thor. Photo by Sandy Sisti.

Last week, horse lovers around the world who loved and followed Thora and her family were devastated to learn that the BLM had trapped and removed her and three other young horses from their families and home. Thora and the others were driven hundreds of miles to the corrals in Rock Springs, Wyoming, where BLM photos show her standing in muck, looking sad and confused. The Rock Springs holding facility has a record of fatal disease outbreaks, the horses have no shelter from the elements, and the conditions are filthy, barren, and depressing. It’s noteworthy that in their gather report, the BLM referred to Baby Thora as a “mare” – a mature female – even though she is a foal who was still nursing on her mother every 30 to 60 minutes, and even though the BLM’s own animal welfare guidelines state that mares and foals should not be separated.

I believe the BLM intentionally targeted Thora for two reasons. First, they resent the American taxpayers who vehemently oppose their plans, and they have a history of punishing those who love and support wild horses by targeting animals they know are especially popular and loved. We’ve seen it with popular herds like the Pine Nut horses in Nevada and the Onaqui horses of Utah. If you are an America taxpayer who supports wild horses and burros on public lands, this is how the BLM is responding to you — by targeting a beautiful foal for extreme cruelty in separating her from her parents and her family. The BLM sees our anguish and our outrage and I believe they relish it, as do the ranchers and other BLM supporters who hate the wild horses and want them all gone.

In the post below, the top photo show Thora and two other young horses removed from the McCullough Peaks HMA:

But I believe the second reason the BLM is so elated that they trapped and removed Thora is because they can’t wait for the bidding war that is sure to happen when she is put up for adoption. It has become customary for pro-BLM plants, people who despise wild horses and who actively seek to thwart efforts to save them, will log onto the online auction and bid up her adoption price, putting more money in the hands of the BLM and causing financial hardship to the nonprofit rescues and sanctuaries trying to make sure Thora has a safe place to land.

This outrage is being perpetrated by federal officials against our publicly-owned wild horses on our federal public lands. Aside from committing acts of cruelty against the animals they are charged with managing humanely, BLM officials are demonstrating an arrogant disregard and outright hostility for the will of the American people who pay their salaries. Congress, are you paying attention?

Scott Beckstead is a lifelong horseman and lecture outlaw at Willamette University.