July 3, 2008
Ever since we finished Cloud’s Legacy, the sequel to Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies, over five years ago, I continued to document Cloud’s life. We’re still in the field filming more remarkable events in the life of this powerful stallion. The new show is being referred to as Cloud III right now. . . until a better title comes to us.
Cloud has captured more mares and now commands the largest band on the Arrowhead Mountains of Montana (a.k.a. Pryor Mountains). The past five years of filming will reveal a story as unpredictable as the earlier programs. This time we’re focusing not just on Cloud and his family but the young stallions you met in Legacy — his birth son, Bolder, and his step-son, Flint, and their attempts to start their families in unusual and even reckless ways.
During this time period, I grew more concerned about the ability of the herd to survive the very agency that manages them — the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM has been darting the mares with infertility drugs and bait trapping the horses which resulted in the untimely death of Cloud’s little son in 2006. Now the BLM is threatening to remove nearly half the herd, which would render them genetically non-viable.
The reason the BLM gives for such a drastic removal is lack of forage, but the agency does not count the many thousands of acres that the horses use in the adjacent Custer National Forest. This historic range of the wild horses was not included when the range was designated and so the horses are regarded as “trespassers” in their own home.
In an attempt to preserve the herd we started a non-profit in 2005, The Cloud Foundation, which is dedicated to educating the public about wild horses and why they deserve a place on our wide Western landscapes. Our mission to preserve the herd is becoming quite a tall order as you will see by visiting our Web site, where you can learn what you can do to help keep Cloud and his family forever free.
There are solutions to preservation which certainly don’t seem like brain surgery to me. Legally expanding the range is the best solution for allowing a truly viable herd of at least 200 to 300 wild horses to roam. This could be done by the Custer National Forest Service at the request of the BLM or it could be done legislatively. We are and we have been expressing our concerns to the BLM and Forest Service that they are in violation of the Wild Horse and Burro Act (a 1971 Congressional Act that governs wild horse management) by not recognizing the legal right of the wild horses to occupy the forest service lands, which were clearly areas they were using when the Act passed in 1971 (and for over 150 years before that — before there was a Forest Service!).
The Cloud Foundation is also supporting wilderness designation for the area, most of which is now a Wilderness Study Area. We know that the very popular mustangs would help in getting the area permanently protected.
Bottom line, we are working to keep the horses on the range where they are the safest and where nature has a chance to regulate horse numbers, not humans.
Case in point: On June 30, 2008, the BLM announced plans to euthanize the mustangs because it was costing too much to feed the thousands they have so unfairly rounded up and continue to round up in the West. This is a pretty scary thought because the BLM wants to remove horses later this summer from the Pryors.
In the meantime, the wild horses seem oblivious to these dangers. Cloud’s range is really looking gorgeous after a tough winter and lots of snow right into May. I know the mustangs were looking forward to spring and looked a bit thinner than usual, but are beefing up nicely. There are lots of new foals. Cloud is a grandfather this year, three times over!
So far the grandkids, “Image,” “Sage,” and “Summer” are thriving, although “Summer” had a huge claw rake on her shoulder which was healing nicely when we left the mountain last week. She had obviously been attacked by a cougar, but perhaps it was a juvenile as she likely would have been killed quickly by an adult. These big cats are incredible hunters. Three foals and two yearlings are missing so far this year, so the mountain lions may be making a comeback in the area after intensive hunting the past few winters.
Mountain lion predation is good for health of the herd. Regardless, it is hard to get to know the new foals and then realize they are gone. As you know, there are no guarantees in the wild, and this is a wild, spectacular place.
I’ll let you know how everyone is doing after our next filming trip late this month.
- Ginger Kathrens
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