Eastern Oregon tribes take on wild horses

Management plan calls for removal of 300-350 near Umatilla River

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PENDLETON, Ore. -- Near the end of September, Gordy Schumacher called Buck Brogoitti Animal Rescue and asked it to take on an injured wild mare and her foal.

Mother and baby included, Schumacher, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation's agricultural and forestry manager, captured 14 of the estimated 400 wild horses roaming both sides of the Umatilla River by using a helicopter to herd them into a corral.

Although Schumacher was able to leave those two horses in sanctuary director Tamara Brogoitti's care, he still has a tight budget and hundreds more horses to deal with.

This is the first year of a marked effort by the tribes to manage the rapidly growing population of wild horses. About 400 wild horses now graze the land, ruining wheat crops, overgrazing rangeland, infringing on other wild species and occasionally getting pregnant.

According to Schumacher, the goal is not to rid the land of all wild horses but to reduce the population to a number that is compatible with land needs and other wildlife.

Schumacher said the tribes' goal is 50 to 100 horses on the south side of the Umatilla. He said he hopes to remove the horse population on the north side because of agricultural needs there. But it will take an expensive, difficult effort to get to that goal.

The tribe's plan calls for a roundup of all wild horses on reservation land. A captured horse is first put up for auction to tribal members. If there are no bidders, the horse goes to a general public auction, then is offered free to tribal members and then to the general public.

Schumacher can only board 30 horses at a time. He said the tribes don't want to resort to slaughtering the horses, and that they are exploring options to prevent that.

"Because the mare was injured, it was either euthanize her or see if the sanctuary would take her," Schumacher said.

Brogoitti is now giving antibiotics to the mare, who has a badly injured rear leg.

Resources are available for people who cannot handle an agricultural animal, Brogoitti said.

"Most people know they can take a cat or a dog to a shelter, but we want to get it out there that this is also a resource people can use," she said of her animal sanctuary.

The sanctuary, which Brogoitti operates out of her Pendleton home, can be reached at 541-969-3057.

Schumacher said he hopes to make further use of the sanctuary when he comes across difficult cases such as the injured mare and foal. For now, he's just hoping the hay budget will get him through the next month, he said.

"It's going to be tight. We don't have much room for error here."