INFORUM.com | WDAZ.com

WDAY: The News Leader

Published July 29, 2013, 09:08 AM

Theodore Roosevelt National Park to round up, auction wild horses

MEDORA, N.D. (AP) — Officials at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota plan to round up more than 100 wild horses this fall to thin a bloated herd.

MEDORA, N.D. (AP) — Officials at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota plan to round up more than 100 wild horses this fall to thin a bloated herd.

The surplus horses will be sold at auction Sept. 28 at a sales ring in Wishek. Horse advocates are mounting Facebook campaigns to spread the word in the hopes of placing the horses with caring buyers, The Forum newspaper reported.

Advocates of the horses have tracked the park's herd for years and keep a registry listing each horse and its lineage. They say that after the last roundup in the park, in 2009, eight of the 77 horses auctioned off ended up at slaughterhouses.

"They are more worthy of ending up with good, loving families instead of on a dinner plate," said Eileen Norton, who launched "Wild in North Dakota," a Facebook page promoting the horses that now has almost 15,000 followers. "They deserve life after living wild."

The park maintains a demonstration herd of what it calls feral horses to commemorate the wild horses that roamed the rugged Badlands when Theodore Roosevelt ranched in the area during the 1880s, before his life in politics took him to the White House.

"It's one of those iconic western scenes to see the Badlands with these horses," park spokeswoman Eileen Andes said.

There are more than 200 horses in the herd, but the ideal size is fewer than 100, Andes said. The horses share the grass with buffalo, elk and deer, and populations of the animals must be controlled to prevent overgrazing. For horses and buffalo, that means periodic roundups and removals.

"Our ultimate goal is to have these horses adopted," said Bill Whitworth, the park's chief of resource management.

Norton, who first saw the horses 32 years ago while attending Dickinson State University, now lives near San Diego following a diplomatic career that included a posting in Japan, where she was dismayed to learn that fresh horse meat is considered a delicacy

"I just really thought these guys deserve to have their stories told," she said of the horses. "My job first and foremost is to raise awareness of the herd."

Marylu Weber, who has followed the park horses for almost 15 years, runs another Facebook community, North Dakota Badlands Horse, with more than 2,300 followers from around the world. She began volunteering for the park on behalf of the horses in 1999, and has kept the North Dakota Badlands Horse Registry since the 2009 roundup.

"We've got people from all over the country wanting these horses," she said.

Wishek, a town of 1,000 people, has embraced the auction and the influx of horse lovers that could turn out to bid. The community plans musical entertainment and fundraising meals for the horse crowd.

"We're going to make it a big deal," said Laura Hochhalter, president of the Wishek Association of Commerce.

Tags: