wild horse on Wildhorse Island gets
Condensed by Native Village
Montana: No one remembers the name
of the last wild
horse on Wildhorse Island.
"He's getting up there in years,"
explains Jerry Sawyer from Montana Fish,
Wildlife and Parks. "We were not
sure he was going to make it through
the winter. His ribs were showing,
even though there was plenty of
forage. Things are just shutting
down because of old age."
Sawyer estimates the horse is 25 - 30 years
old and in his "sunset" years.
But it was a mild winter. The horse
Now he's got a partner: a
wild mustang transplanted to the
island in December. And three to
four more are coming this year.
After all, what's an island called Wildhorse without wild horses?
The last horse on Flathead Lake's
largest island was the last living member of a group
moved there in 1993. The Parks
management plan calls for a herd of
five wild mustangs to run free on
the island's 2,164 acres. The island
is also home to mule deer and big
FWP's management plan calls for a
herd of five wild mustangs to run
free on the island.
herd's purpose is to honor the
island's name. A wild horse
sighting is one of the most prized
treasures for island visitors.
The newest horse on the island is 6
- 7 years old. He originally ran
free in Oregon or Washington.
"Someone had gotten it, and either
it got loose or was let loose, and
they couldn't find the owner,"
Sawyer says. "The horse was captured
and returned to the BLM
(Bureau of Land Management). They called
us and said they had a horse in
Missoula if we wanted it."
Since being transported by a barge
to the island in December, Sawyer
got reports that the newcomer and
old-timer found each other.
"They're pretty social animals,"
Sawyer says. "At first they're
pretty wary, but over time they work
out who's the more dominant. There's
always a lead horse in a herd."
The island's name dates back to the
1854 journal of explorer John Mullan,
who called it the "Wild Horse"
Mullan recorded the story
a Pend d'Oreille Indian whose father
had horses were stolen by the
Blackfeet. The son
the stole horses from the Blackfeet and
swam them out to the island for
Mullan reported a band of 60 to 70
of the animals on Wildhorse in 1854.
The state is working to make
Pryor Mountain mustangs the next
batch of horses transplanted to
Wildhorse. The mustangs have Spanish and Portuguese
All will be geldings.
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