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Horse News | About Horses And Fish Hatcheries

Posted By: JR

Wild horses were back in the news earlier this month when theBureau of Land Management reported the untamed mustang populationswere out of control and they were going to remove 2,000 fromWyoming, plus a few from Utah and Montana.

Nevada wasn’t mentioned in spite of the fact that state has overhalf the estimated 33,00 wild horses freely roaming 10 westernstates. “Activists” were immediately critical.

The entire horse problem is unreal, needless and immeasurablycostly. It will not be solved as long as the practical butrepugnant solution of shooting surplus animals is stopped byemotionally motivated lawsuits.

Look at the problem: (1) The free roamers are using, and in manyareas destroying, grazing range for themselves as well as domesticand native animals. (2) We the taxpayers are footing the bills forroughly 40,000 horses earlier taken from the ranges and placed in”long-term” holding pens. (3) Wild horse herd numbers on averagedouble every four years. (4) Last year’s budget just for BLM’s careof penned horses was $36.9 million. Where does it end? As LarryWilson would say, “What do you think?”

In the fall of 1938, my same-age uncle Stan Harris and I weresitting astride our trusty steeds by a dusty road running betweenthe Bonner ranch and ours at Camas Prairie. Mr. Bonner came bydriving a small herd of horses, including a pinto mare colt. Hestopped to chat a minute and we asked where he was going.

Said he was taking the horses to the State Fish Hatchery atRavalli. We wondered why so he explained, “They buy horse meat tofeed the fish.”

Mr. Bonner obviously saw the emotional impact on two 10-year-oldboys regarding the coming fate of the beautiful little colt. Hepushed his old cowboy hat back on his head and said, “Tell you whatboys. All of us ranching folks are hurting these days, but I canget along without the money for that colt. If you open the gate,I’ll drive her through and you can have her.” There was great joyon that day long ago, and “Dixie” grew up to become one of ourfavorite cattle ponies.

That is just one story to illustrate my long relationship withhorses, and how much they’ve meant to me.

The hatchery at Ravalli was abandoned sometime after World War II,and I believe the state now only has the one on Flathead Lake andanother in Lewistown. All the early hatcheries used horse meat toraise trout, including the one at the inlet of BitterrootLake.

The Creston Hatchery was built by the National Park Service in 1934and used horse meat for a good many years. Now they buy “commercialfish food.” Don’t know if there is horse meat involved, but as aside note, several years back I wrote about a wild horse roundup Iwas on and learned tons of that meat was used each year in pet foodproducts.

Regarding the federal hatchery operation in Creston, it was “sold”(transferred) by the Park Service to the U.S. Fish and WildlifeDepartment in 1939. Years later, President Ronald Reagan tried toclose it down because its original purpose of supplying fingerlingsto Glacier Park no longer existed. Big political battle ended withcontinued operation and fish going to Montana Indian reservationsand the state.

There are six hatchery employees now with a federal “partner” whoworks with private land owners on fisheries-related issues, such asbull trout protection, etc. Four federal ecological servicepersonnel are also employed. The hatchery this year produced743,000 rainbow trout and 213,000 west slope cutthroat, which areusually stocked after reaching 4 to 6 inches.

Wonder how much hatcheries pay out for “commercial fish food”?

G. George Ostrom is a national award-winning Hungry Horse Newscolumnist. He lives in Kalispell.

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