Mustang and burro adoption event coming to Hamilton

The Ravalli County Fairgrounds will be the site of a mustang and burro adoption event starting Thursday, June 20, and running through Sunday. 

Wild horses and burros are coming to Hamilton next week and the government will pay you $1,000 to take one home with you.

To qualify for the Bureau of Land Management’s new adoption incentive program, people have to show they have enough space and stout enough fences to keep the animals safe. Once their application is approved, adopters will get $500 within 60 days of the adoption date and another $500 about one year later when the owner receives a title for the animal.

The Bureau of Land Management is currently conducting a series of satellite adoption events across the state.

Hamilton’s event will be the largest, with about 100 wild horses and burros, said BLM’s Montana and Dakotas wild horse program lead Jerrie Bertola.

Last year was the first time in six years that the BLM has offered horses and burros for adoption at satellite events in Montana. There will be similar events at Kalispell, Lewistown and Livingston this summer and one in Glendive in September.

The horses offered for adoption at Hamilton will come from Oregon and California. The burros will be brought in from Utah.

There are currently about 50,000 horses and burros in holding pens awaiting adoption. Over the last few years, the numbers of people interested in taking in the animals has been declining.

A horse housed in a holding pen costs the government about $2,000 a year. The cost of managing the free-ranging herds and those held in pens is estimated at nearly $50 million annually.

As of March 1, 2018, there were an estimated 81,890 wild horses and burros on public land, which is more than triple the number the land can support along with other legally mandated uses, according to a BLM release.

The incentive program was established to encourage qualified people to adopt one or more of the animals.

“We understand that adopting a wild horse or burro represents a commitment,” said BLM Deputy Director of Programs and Policy Brian Steed. “The incentive is designed to help with the adopter’s initial training and humane care. I encourage anyone who has considered adopting a wild horse or burro to join the thousands of owners who have provided good homes to more than 245,000 wild horses or burros since 1971.”

To qualify for the program, people need to have 400-square-foot piece of ground surrounded by a 6-foot-tall fence for horses that have not been trained. The fence needs to be 4½-feet tall for burros. If there are any trained horses available for adoption or animals younger than 18 months, a 5-foot-high fence will do.

While BLM officials don’t make an inspection before the animals go to their new home, Bertola said compliance inspections happen throughout the year.

The horses that will be available for adoption in Hamilton range in age from yearlings to about 7. Burros are yearlings to age 13.

People who attend the adoption event at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds in Hamilton can either go online and get an application or fill one out after they arrive.

“We encourage people to bring their horse trailers with them so they can take them home,” Bertola said.

The BLM started its adoption tour in Minot, North Dakota. Of the 40 animals taken to the event, 34 were placed.

The Hamilton wild horse and burro adoption event will get underway at 8 a.m. Thursday, June 20, and end at noon Sunday, June 23. On all days but the last, the horses can be viewed between 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The event also features two Mustang Matt Clinics on Friday and Saturday that run between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

There is a $25 adoption/sale fee for untrained animals.

For more information, people can call 406-647-3477 or email Bertola at jbertola@blm.gov.