HCN: BIA and Crow Tribe lost money on big horse roundup

"We seem to have a morbid fascination with news stories and photographs of dead, dying or distressed animals -- something Montana has provided plenty of in the past two years. The number of animals involved has been staggering, the evidence of abuse extreme.

The most recent case involved a rancher in south-central Montana. He had been a high roller in the cattle genetics business for a number of years until he was forced to leave that business under the threat of several lawsuits. He re-invented himself as a quarter horse breeder in 2002, and spent thousands of dollars on lavish auction parties each year at his ranch. In its glory days, his operation spread over nearly 15,000 acres of deeded land and 30,000 acres of leased land. He finally went bankrupt and lost both his ranches.

Meanwhile, the Crow Tribe complained to the Bureau of Indian Affairs that many of those neglected horses had been illegally eating reservation grass for several years. After an old-fashioned Montana roundup was conducted by the Crow Agency at BIA expense, 829 horses thundered into corrals to be sorted, brand-inspected and checked by veterinarians in preparation for sale. The owner had an opportunity to redeem his animals right up until the day of the auction.

Internet horse blogs were abuzz with news of the BIA auction, and as a result, a number of past issues with the breeder came to light. Apparently, as early as 2004, registration papers for horses purchased at the lavish ranch sales were nearly impossible to obtain. Despite the registration problems, buyers flocked to Montana from all parts of the country and Canada, and a thousand curious onlookers swelled the crowd on the day of the auction. The BIA announced gross proceeds of $380,000 from the auction, but declared that after all expenses including rangeland damages were toted up, the agency and the Crow Tribe probably lost money."

Get the Story:
Wendy Beye: Big Sky country, bigger abuse (High Country News 5/12)

Related Stories:
BIA generates $380K through sale of horses on Crow Reservation (4/5)
BIA's costs for horse roundup on Crow Reservation top $182K (4/1)
BIA to start selling horses rounded up from Crow Reservation (3/29)
Crow Tribe begins rounding up over 700 horses on reservation (3/22)
BIA to pay Crow Tribe $45K to round up horses on reservation (3/16)
BIA soliciting bids to round up 700 horses on Crow Reservation (2/16)

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