CEDAR MOUNTAINS, Tooele County — Extended hot temperatures in Utah's West Desert have become a threat to Utah's wild horse population.
Temperatures got so hot so quickly this year that staying ahead of the drought has been a challenge. So, for the past few weeks, Utah's Bureau of Land Management has been shipping thousands of gallons of water every week to fill troughs for wild horses in the Cedar Mountain herd of Skull Valley.
"Right now, what we're doing is a preventative action. We're trying to stay ahead of it so the horses stay healthy," said Kevin Lloyd, BLM wild horse and burro specialist.
There are about 600 wild horses in the Cedar Mountain herd, almost double what BLM would like to see.
"That makes a difference. We would be fine with the amount of water we have if we were down around 300 horses," Lloyd said.
There are other water sources in the general area, but drought conditions mean that horses won't travel as far.
"They get weak, and they get to the point where they can't leave the water source. And at that point, they basically stand on the dry water until they die," Lloyd said.
Even with the BLM's best efforts, sometimes the horses won't drink the water that is brought in. Wild horses are finicky and skittish animals, so if something appears out of the ordinary, they often won't go near it, Lloyd said.
"Horses are animals of habit, and once they get used to coming into a certain water course, that's where they want to go," Lloyd said.
Normally the horses run away when people are in the area, but with the heat, some horses stay close and wait for the troughs to fill up.
The BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Program is a controversial one. Many love it and support helping the horses, but many say nature should be allowed to take its course.
"Right now, we have the ability to really take care of the horses, and so that's what we're going to do," Lloyd said. "We don't want to see them suffer."