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Ochoco National Forest plans big reduction in Big Summit wild horses herd

Draft decision out for review; some will be up for adoption

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Big Summit Wild Horse Territory on the Ochoco National Forest features the only herd of wild horses in the Pacific Northwest managed completely by the U.S. Forest Service.

It’s also possibly the most well-known place to see wild horses in Central Oregon.

"Seeing these horses on the landscape is really quite magnificent," Ochoco National Forest Public Affairs Officer Kassidy Kern told NewsChannel 21 on Thursday.

But there's a problem.

"The herd that we have out there right now is considerably larger than the analysis shows it probably should be," Kern said.

She said there are about 135 horses wandering the 25,000-acre territory.

Kern said there is a wild horse management plan, but it's been a while since the one for Big Summit has been updated.

"The last time this was done for this particular herd was in 1975, so it's quite outdated," she said.

That's why the Forest Service released a draft of new management plan earlier this month.

In this new draft decision, the Forest Service determined the optimal number of horses for the area to hold is between 12 and 57, and they're focusing on maintaining a number near the higher end of that range -- still, less than half the current number who roam the area.

The draft decision calls for the Forest Service to trap some of the horses and put them up for adoption. They will also use approved forms of contraceptives on some of the remaining horses.

"We want to make sure those animals are healthy,” Kern said. “And part of that means maintaining a herd that the ground can reasonably hold."

The Forest Service can also euthanize some of the horses, to achieve what it considers a healthy population for the horses and the land they run on, but there are no plans to do so right now.

The draft decision is now under review, and some members of the public can file objections.

"Folks who have been part of this process,” Kern said, “folks who have been commenting on this process have standing to look at this document have standing to send us comments to be included on the final record."

The final decision is expected sometime early next year.

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Jack Hirsh

Jack Hirsh is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jack here.



  1. Get rid of them all. They are an invasive species that is doing irreparable harm to the ecosystem and native wildlife. Name one benefit of having them on the landscape? With cattle at least you can eat them.

    1. That might work if they would spread out and utilize the entire 25,000 acres but they don’t. Any time we have went up there to observe them this year, they all seemed to concentrate in one area. They are thick as flies now. And they are getting so used to humans that we literally slowly drove our SUV right through a herd of them as they were standing on a FS road. So close that, if we were stupid enough to try, we could have reached out and touched one. (But being a horse trainer for years, including training several BLM horses, thats a good way to get your car kicked or you bit) Wild stallions and lead mares CAN be dangerous if they feel the herd is being threatened. If they are getting this used to humans, they do need to be thinned out.

      1. The concerning part of your comment was where you suggested to close a FS road. Obviously since you weren’t disturbing the “wildlife” the road is not an issue.

  2. In my youth I worked in a restaurant and after we closed the Mexican cooks would get horse steaks from the Albertsons in the same mall and we would cook some of the most delicious tacos ever.
    I have always wondered why we eat some animals and not others.
    They are all mostly tasty, even rattlesnake.

  3. 135 wild horses is not that any, sterilize them and let them go. Meanwhile get the cattle off off of government land,ranchers should use their own land.

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