SCOTT CITY, Kan. (AP) — Seventy-five wild horses that died after being moved to a corral in western Kansas likely succumbed to old age and stress caused by crowding and changes to their feed, federal officials determined.
The horses were among 1,493 mares transferred to the corral near Scott City in June by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management after another open-pasture contractor said he wanted to quickly reduce his herd of about 47,300 horses. The horses died or had to be euthanized because they could not get back up, BLM spokesman Paul McGuire said.
A preliminary investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management attributed the deaths of mostly older horses to stress after being moved from their original pastures. McGuire says some of the horses at the corral, managed by Beef Belt LLC, also might have been affected by changes in their food.
“It is also true that the horses could have been affected by the food mix, as well as the quantity of the feeds,” McGuire said.
The manager of the corral, Steven Landgraf, said his staff was not to blame for the deaths, The Hutchinson News reported.
“We did our best to take care of them. It is not like we did not do our job,” Landgraf said. “As animals get older, they die. The animals that have died have all been between 19 and 20 years old. It is a fact of life; how do you say this without being cruel?”
He said it is normal for 4 percent to 5 percent of cattle at the corral to die, and the numbers for the horses were not unusual.
“I have a cow herd. When the cattle get to be this old, we sell them so they can be turned into hamburger. That’s not the way with horses; we can only take care of them. If they are old, they naturally succumb to nature,” Landgraf said.
After the deaths, the BLM decided to leave the horses at the corral but made changes to their care, McGuire said.
“We have asked the operator to increase the quantity of feeds from 18-20 pounds a day to 26 to 28 per day. We also asked them to increase the energy density of the feeds. The mixture of grass and alfalfa is now balanced in favor of alfalfa,” he said.
The BLM also advised the contractor to spread the horses throughout more lots to reduce crowding.
“It seems the measures we have taken so far have achieved what we intended: to get the horses stabilized. The deaths have tapered off, and the horses have a very healthy appearance and seem to be doing quite well,” McGuire said.