On March 19, the Wyoming Livestock Board sold the horses to the highest bidder, Bouvry Exports Calgary, Ltd., for $1,640. Bouvry maintains a slaughterhouse in Canada.
The horses were then shipped to Shelby, Mont. Of the 41, four colts were sold separately by Bouvry prior to shipment. Since then, 14 more horses were sold at Shelby.
“I do not know who bought them,” a Bouvry manager who declined to identify himself said Wednesday. “The other 23 went to slaughter.”
The manager said the Wyoming horses were 2-year-olds and colts.
There is a big market for horse meat in Europe and Asia, he said.
“There is a huge profit in horse meat, unfortunately, because it’s considered a delicacy,” said Patricia Fazio, Wyoming Wild Horse Coalition statewide coordinator in Cody.
Ginger Kathrens, board member of the Cloud Foundation, a wild horse advocacy group based in Colorado Springs, Colo., remained dubious of the rescued horses’ origins.
After the horses were shipped to a Bouvry feed ground facility in Shelby, Cloud members photographed equines in all the corrals but one. They estimated about 350 horses were at the feedlot, but none of the Shelby pictures matched horses previously photographed in the Sheep Mountain area, Kathrens said.
Typically following a roundup, the bureau conducts adoptions to sell the horses.
At adoptions, bidding per wild horse starts at $125. The average price is around $400. Although she can’t verify it, she heard the 14 Shelby horses sold for $800 each, Kathrens said.
Horses for slaughter are sold at a cost per pound. The foundation hoped to rescue the horses. “We had a buyer for all 41 horses at the going per pound rate,” Kathrens said.
In Europe horse meat sells for around $20 per pound, according to American Horse Meat.com.
The BLM, which is responsible for the management of wild horses, labeled them unauthorized domestic horses that were offspring of abandoned domestic horses. The bureau said it had received complaints the horses were damaging private pastures and said the horses were a danger to the public.
In February the bureau published a Notice of Intent to Impound, in area newspapers and post offices, but it did not say what “unauthorized livestock” was to be impounded or where.
She didn’t know of the roundup until it was over, Kathrens said.
The Cloud Foundation hopes to work with the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign to ensure greater transparency in Wyoming wild horse roundups in the future, Kathrens said.
Fazio would like to see a similar arrangement with agencies providing wild horse advocacy groups the opportunity to purchase the captured horses at a maximum price of $100 per head.
That outcome results in a mixed emotional bag for Fazio, whose goal has been to prevent horse slaughtering in Wyoming.
“I’m kind of sad and I’m kind of glad,” she said.