It’s Time to Rally For Mercuria!

****The timeline has passed.  In total, 37 letters were received.  Thanks for your hard work!  They will be delivered in person tomorrow (08/22) ***

Mercuria needs your help (yes you!) and she needs it fast.

pm mercuria 3
Mercuria as a foal in 2012

The thing with removals in the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Herd is that some foals simply matter more than others.  It stinks.  It makes you feel like a dirty rat when writing to the BLM to explain why one horse is more okay to be taken than another; like you are betraying the “less important” horse.  Yet all those emotions that you wrestle with while thinking about these horses, each and every one of whom I adore, is a necessarily evil.

Because some horses matter more than others.  If the BLM takes the wrong horse, they can accidentally wipe out an entire bloodline.  Sometimes more than one!  This is what happened to Santa Fe, a successful, fantastic stallion who lost so many offspring to roundups and removals that now his entire line rests on one colt.

Mercuria is one such horse.  She is simply more important.

Which is why it is baffling that on Wednesday, the BLM removed Mercuria and her young filly Paquita.  They claimed that Mercuria had a poor body condition.  Now I will also say that I think the BLM has the best intentions in mind, and do not suspect any foul play. However, Mercuria is a growing three year old who is also raising a foal. She is a little ribby, but from the photos I saw she looks very well for her age and body type.

Mercuria with her dam Jewel
Mercuria with her dam Jewel

Why Mercuria is Important

Mercuria is the only daughter of the mare Jewel.  Jewel is a 6 year old mare who was given PZP this past spring (probably on accident).  Under the new PZP rules, Jewel could be put back on PZP as early as 2017, whether she gives birth to a second foal or not.

Jewel of the Dryhead
Jewel of the Dryhead

In this removal, the BLM has been very reasonable by putting most “only offspring” on tier three.  Mercuria was one of the few exceptions to this idea and was placed on tier two. (Curiously all three of the fillies put on tier two despite being an only offspring are in the Dryhead)

The reasoning was that Mercuria’s mother Jewel came from a well-represented line, since she is the daughter of Waif and Corona.  Waif and Corona were a big time power couple for many years, completely devoted to each other. Corona had no other mares but Waif.

Except there is a problem:  Waif and Corona are not nearly as well represented as everyone thinks.

Gramma Waif
Gramma Waif

At the beginning of 2015, Waif and Corona had five offspring that were still wild.  Two of them have already been removed.  The remaining three are all back-to back-sisters:  Halo, Icara, and Jewel.  So far so good, since having three offspring left wild is better than half the mares in this herd get, right?  Wrong.

The problem is that those sisters have hit a reproductive wall.  Here are the stats on Jewel’s sisters (Mercuria’s aunties):

  • Halo has only foaled once, back in 2010. Her daughter was removed two years later, leaving her with no offspring on the range.  Halo will be placed back on PZP in 2016.  In other words, if she is not currently pregnant with a 2016 baby, she it is highly unlikely she will ever foal.  I the best case scenario Halo has a foal next year and the foal survives;Halo would still only has one offspring in the wild.  Worst case scenario: Halo stays barren for the rest of her days.
  • Icara is the best off of the three sisters. She has three foals:  Morgana, Oglala, and Phantom.  Of the three foals, the BLM is actively trying to catch and remove one (Oglala), and there is a strong probability that they will take a second (Phantom) next year.  So Icara’s best case scenario is to be left with two offspring and that is it.  Icara was also given PZP earlier this year and will be kept on it for the rest of her life.
Halo head shot
Auntie Halo
Auntie Icara
Auntie Icara

If Mercuria is taken, the Waif and Corona line would be left in shambles.

Plus there is the fact she’s a girl.  No, I’m not being sexist.  In the Dryhead of the Pryors, there are too many dudes on the dance floor.  Specifically, the ratio is close to 60% male to 40% female.  Added on to that, many of the females that are down there are older and will be kept on PZP for the rest of their lives.  It is not a good situation.

Oglala (right) is Mercuria's cousin. He is in the first tier for removal. Removing more males will help get the sex ratio closer to 50/50. The downside is that removing Oglala will mean the Waif x Corona line grows smaller and rarer.
Oglala (right) is Mercuria’s cousin. He is in the first tier for removal. Removing more males will help get the sex ratio closer to 50/50. The downside is that removing Oglala will mean the Waif x Corona line grows smaller and rarer.

But while Mercuria was removed, this does not mean she cannot be released.  It’s happened before, and maybe with a little luck we can make it happen again.

So let’s try to save Mercuria!

Put simply, we need to politely request that the BLM not officially removed Mercuria and Paquita, but rather allow them to stay in the pens to gain some weight and then release them at the conclusion of the gather later this fall.

The BLM has done things like this in the past. They caught Phoenix and her foal Sax once to treat a wound on her flank.  After a little while they later released her.  They have also removed and branded Shaman and Starman, but released them back into the wild.  So there is precedence.  We do have a leg to stand on.


How You Can Help

My friend Brigitte had an amazing idea and you can help Mercuria in less than ten minutes.  Easy, right?

Write a letter. That’s right, a letter, not an email… well, sort of. An amazing Montana local and good friend, Brigitte Conner, has offered to hand deliver letters to the BLM regarding Mercuria.  Unlike an email, this will give our requests a personal touch and a completely different feel.  It shows that we are taking this seriously, care a great deal about it, but are polite enough to not completely fill up Jared’s email with email after email of ranting and raving.

Now we have to do this fast.  I mean really fast, if it is to work before Mercuria & Paquita are processed and placed into the BLM’s online adoption.

How this will work:  Type up a letter to Jared Bybee, the Pryor Wild Horse Specialist that is short and sweet.  Seriously, if it’s too long is probably won’t get read because Jared and Jim (the local BLM guys) are very men right now.  Now print that letter out and sign it.  Once you’ve given it your John Hancock, scan the letter and email it to [removed – time has passed, thanks!] Put Mercuria Letter in the subject line.

This needs to be done by no later than 3:30  p.m. MST (5:30 Eastern Time).  That way Brigitte has time to get these letters printed and ready to be delivered on Saturday.  Yes, that is a short deadline.  But this could make a difference in two horses lives and a HUGE difference in the long-term health of the Pryor horses that call the desert their home.

Below are some suggestions for your letter.  You probably shouldn’t include all of these, but hit the keynotes, aka “Please consider releasing Mercuria.  Her genetics are important enough to make her a special exception because…” Add anything else that makes sense so you can give it that personal touch.

  • Remind the BLM that two of the Waif x Corona line (Norte and Orion) have already been removed and that taking more is a risk.
  • Point out that Mercuria is a female and that females in the Dryhead were supposed to be given a priority.
  • Let the BLM know that while Paquita’s sire is unknown, it is either Kemmerer or Hawk and either way, she is the first offspring of her sire.
  • Point out that of the future breeding age mares, Mercuria is one of the healthiest genetically and also the least likely to accidentally produce an inbred or linebred foal.
  • Based on your own opinions and comfort level, you might consider reminding them that if they release Mercuria and Paquita now, they can still elect to remove Paquita in the coming years if it is necessary to meet their population objectives. I have mixed feelings on this one because I don’t like it, but do think that it would be worth taking a risk to at least save one of them.  Make that decision based on your own beliefs and ethics.
  • Thank the BLM for their consideration. Overall, they have done a good job with this removal.  I don’t agree with all their choices, but it has been way less damaging that past ones were.  They’ve also shown a lot of care and kindness to all the horses they have removed and I think it would be nice to let them know we’ve noticed.  Mercuria was a big mistake, but one that can still be fixed very easily

I know this deadline is tight, but you don’t have to write a novel.  Just a quick note to let Jared know that you care about Mercuria, realize how important she is, and think that it would be a good idea to consider releasing her will do just fine.   If you absolutely have no way to sign your letter and the send a scanned copy to Brigitte, please at least email her your letter so it can still be included.

So One Last Time:

  • Mercuria is really important because of her smaller bloodline and it would be really good if the BLM would consider releasing her. If they want to keep her for a month or so to let her fatten up, they would be helping her while also not hurting the herd
  • Please please please write and email a letter over to [removed – the deadline has passed!] politely asking that they consider releasing Mercuria to the wild rather than removing her. If at all possible you should print that letter, sign it by hand, scan the letter, and then send it over.  Personal touches like that can make a big difference.

Get it?  Got it? Good.  Now Go!

I only ever met Mercuria in 2012 but if you search for Mercuria or Paquita you will find some toher wonderful photographs to see how she has grown. But as for this blog... look at that precious face!
I only ever met Mercuria in 2012 but if you search for Mercuria or Paquita you will find some other wonderful photographs to see how she has grown. But for now… look at that precious face!

Published by Rachel Reeves

I am a photographer who currently lives in the great state of Colorado. I love going out and photographing wild horses in their natural habitat, and look forward to being able to share a glimpse their world with you.

9 thoughts on “It’s Time to Rally For Mercuria!

  1. Reblogged this on travelandnature and commented:
    Rachel’s done a great job of outlining this, but if anyone’ hesitating taking action because they’re short on time here’s the cliff-notes version. Mercuria and Paquita were removed due to poor body condition. However there are several reasons why they should be released:
    1. They are the only daughter and granddaughter of the Dryhead mare Jewel. Jewel has already had two full brothers removed during this removal.
    2. The sex ratio in they Dryhead is currently skewed toward males. There are a couple colts that could be removed in their place to help even the ratio out.
    3. Removing based on poor body condition goes against natural selection.
    Rachel makes several good points in her blog, but I personally feel those are the three main ones. Please, at the very least consider writing a letter by the end of the day today.

  2. So glad I read my email this afternoon! I wrote a letter – sent it to Brigitte. Cant scan anymore so I couldn’t sign it. I sure do hope this does some good for these two beautiful horses.

    1. Thank you so very much, Maggie! Brigitte can sign or initial the letter on your behalf if you would like her to. Otherwise, even with no signature it will still most definitely count! I am sorry for the short timing. We just learned about Mercuria last night, so things are definitely moving quickly. I wish we had more time, but we can’t take the risk that Mercuria will be processed and put online for bids before we can make our voices heard.

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