SALT LAKE CITY — Close to 300 abandoned, stray or nuisance horses were removed from public lands in Uintah County this month over a five-day period, with the majority of them reunited with their lawful owner.

The Uintah Animal Control and Special Service District, under authorization via an executive order from Uintah County, worked with a licensed horse gathering company to carry out the animals’ removal this month, successfully taking in 296 animals.

None had to be euthanized, although some of the animals had cuts and scrapes that were medically addressed, according to the district’s executive director, Christina Williams.

“Our first series of gathers was very successful,” Williams said. “We exceeded our target of 175 horses.”

Stray horses run near oil and gas infrastructure in Uintah County during a January gather in 2020. | Uintah Animal Control & Shelter Special Service District

Most of the horses, which are not “wild” or under the purview of the Bureau of Land Management, were concentrated in the area between state Route 40, S.R. 45 and the Green River. Some were also found along Seep Ridge Road, Glen Ridge Road and in the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge.

Eighteen of the animals remain under the care of the district pending the outcome of testing results for equine infectious anemia. Their owners have been identified, Williams said.

Another 278 animals were claimed by their owner, satisfying the requirements by state brand inspectors before being transported out of state.

Williams stressed that the animals are not wild, and that all BLM horses were “zeroed” out in the area about 21 years ago.

Stray horses are pictured in corrals after a January 2020 gather in Uintah County. The horses were gathered in an attempt to reunite the animals with their owns and reduce public safety risks. | Uintah Animal Control & Shelter Special Service District

Over time, these horses have increased in population and wandered onto roadways where there have been vehicle collisions and other threats to public safety.

Williams said the district plans to work with the contractor to “bait trap” stragglers, and other gathers are planned this year. There were as many as 500 horses in the project area at the time the county issued the executive order.