BLM has first mustang and burro adoption in over a year


The privately owned, BLM-contracted Wheatland corral encompasses 200 acres and is designed to hold up to 3,500 animals. Currently, the corral holds approximately 2,850 wild horses and burros. The first live adoption was completed April 28 and more adoptions are forthcoming. People are seen viewing the horses in the outer coral. BLM2 Wild mustangs were not the only animals harvested from western Wyoming. Wild burros were also harvested and available for adoption.

Wheatland – The Bureau of Land Management’s Wheatland Off-Range Corral reopened for a tour of the facility April 14 and then again for their first live adoption in 18 months due to a sickness that affected the entire herd.

The wild horse and burro adoptions this spring came after a yearlong closure, according to Tyson Finnicum, public affairs specialist with the Bureau of Land Management high plains district.

“To celebrate its reopening, the BLM offered approximately 700 wild horses and burros in an online adoption event scheduled for March 13-20,” Finnicum said. “More wild horses were included for adoption prior to the event.” 

With the success of that adoption, BLM was ready for the next step with a tour and an actual live adoption April 28. The first few hours of the adoption that went from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. saw a lot of bidding and within the first hour, seven horses had new forever homes.

After that live auction, people could choose the horses they wanted – first come, first served.

The closure and lack of adoptions last year, according to JJ Nolan, wild horse and burro facility manager, was due to an illness in the herd called strep equine or “strangles.” According to the University of Minnesota, “Strangles is a highly contagious infection that causes fever, nasal discharge and abscesses near swollen lymph nodes. Hot packs can help the abscesses mature before opening and flushing them out. Horses that struggle to breathe may need antibiotics or hospital care.”

With the herd given a clean bill of health, the BLM, the workers and the horses were ready to find some forever homes.

According to Nolan, some of the animals that are won by bid may still qualify for the BLM’s adoption incentive to pay the new horse owner $1,000 for each horse adopted. The bidding at the virtual auction starts at $125 and goes as high as people want to go.

“Folks have been waiting patiently for over a year to see and adopt these animals and we are equally eager to start adoptions again,” Nolan said.

While the animals offered in the online event in March ranged widely in age, mares gathered from the 2021 Wyoming Checkerboard gather were not offered as many of them foaled after arriving to the Wheatland corral. Those mares will be available for adoption at a later date to avoid separating mares and foals prematurely.

Prior to the adoption, interested buyers must complete an online application, browse the individual animal profiles, and learn more about the rules and requirements for adopting a wild horse at

“We’re still figuring out a lot,” Nolan said. “That’s our plan currently but there’s still a lot to get ironed out. “For future updates on these events, follow BLM Wyoming on Facebook or Twitter, or visit”

In addition to the online auction and the actual first live onsite adoption, there are more adoptions planned.

“The plan right now, is to do the fourth Friday of every month from through October,” Nolan said. “As for how many we’d like to adopt out, personally, I’d love to get them all placed. As to how many I think will be adopted, I stopped trying to guess at events. I can look and see that we have 100 big, flashy animals and like 20 people show up. And then another time we have 50 horses that are plain and they all go.”

Nolan said that all the horses are wild and untrained with the exception of maybe a few who have come back from homes where the owners either fell on hard times or realized they couldn’t take care of a horse. Horses can be taken to local ranches where they can find private trainers to get the horses ranch ready.

As for where the horses were harvested, Nolan said that most of the horses were all gathered in Wyoming.

“For the most part, they have been gathered from Wyoming,” Nolan said. “We do have some from Nevada, but they were shipped here when the facility first opened. So, we have some Nevada mares. Some of these mares got here in January of 2021, so they are ready to find their new home. We were all primed and ready for the adoptions and then the strangles came in and they’ve been here ever since.”

The life these horses lead is not always as adverse as on the wild prairies where the food supplies are not enough to sustain the herds.

“Just like us, these horses have their own personalities,” Nolan said. “Even working through the chute like we’re doing today, getting blood drawn and doing a Coggins test, you can tell the ones who are still ‘Nope, I want nothing to do with this.’ And then you have the other ones who are definitely a little softer eyed and they’re ready to start. Here it’s even a little better than the wild. At least here they have heated water and a big pile of hay every single day. They’ve got it pretty made here, but we definitely want to see these horses out into their forever home.”

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