Travel Insights to Pryor Mountain Mustangs
Outside of Lovell, Wyoming, Mustangs or Wild horses still roam freely in the Pryor Mountains. The Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range is a refuge for a historically significant herd of free-roaming Mustangs, feral horses colloquially called “wild horses“,located in the Pryor Mountains of Montana and Wyoming in the United States. This herd of horses is very special because of its Colonial Spanish American heritage. This tough little horse, derived from the horses of Portugal and Spain, has been present in this rugged mountain area for nearly 200 years.
The range has an area of 39,650 acres and was established in 1968 along the Montana–Wyoming border as the first protected refuge dedicated exclusively for Mustangs. It was the second feral horse refuge in the United States. In addition to feral horses, the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Refuge is also a good place to see other wildlife and plant species. Among the species found there are Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, black bears, blue grouse, cougars, elk, gray wolves, mule deer, ring-necked pheasant, and sage grouse.
Viewing the Wild Horses
The Pryor Mountain Wild Horses can be found throughout the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range. Regardless of where they are in the range, they are all the same Pryor Mountain Wild Horses.
Some of the wild horses live in the desert lowlands of the range, and many of these can be seen along Highway 37 in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. Because of the landscape and behavior of these horses, it is often difficult to find them. Highway 37 is a well maintained, paved highway that any vehicle can easily drive on.
Most of the wild horses live on East Pryor Mountain, and they are relatively easy to find. As in the lowlands, other wildlife, such as black bears, mule deer and possibly mountain lions, can be seen in the area as well. However, it can be difficult to access these horses as available roads require a vehicle with good four wheel drive, low range, and tires.
It is highly recommended that visitors wishing to view the Pryor Mountain Wild Horses come to the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center first. They can provide maps and directions showing current options for viewing the horses. Because they frequently monitor the horses, they are able to give current information on the status and location of them. They are also more than happy to provide further information on the wild horses that visitors do see as we know information about each individual.
Once the wild horses are found, visitors must be respectful of them. Like other wildlife in the region, the wild horses have become more docile around humans than they once were due to the number of visitors to the range.
Proper etiquette when around the Horse
- The Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center and the Bureau of Land Management ask that visitors never get closer than 100-300 feet to the wild horses.
- Do not do anything that will change their behavior. Making noise, rapid movements, and the like may seem like ways to get the horses’ attention; but this is a disrespectful practice.
- There should be no attempts to feed or lure the wild horses in closer.
- Patiently and quietly watch the horses from an appropriate distance will yield the best viewing and photographing of them.
- Approaching mustangs during foaling season could result in foal abandonement
- Do not allow dogs to chase wild horses
- Do not attempt to get close and touch the animals. Do not engage in any activity that interrupts wild horses current behavior. If your presence causes horses to move away from you or to stop carrying out their normal activities (sleeping, playing, grazing etc) you are too close. Move away when sage to do so, until you are no longer a curiosity or a threat and you have re-established the proper distance between you and the horse.
- Wild horses are subject to natural mortality from injury or illness without veterinarian intervention. Non-viable horses maybe euthanized to end suffering by Authorized personnel only.
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ASSIST OR HANDLE SICK OR INJURED ANIMALS
Proper respect of the wild horses is not only important to their long-term survival; it is also required by law. Harrasment, injury, removal or causing the death of wild horse is punishable by fines or imprisonment
Wild Horse Tours options
- The Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center. The center provide very helpful info and in providing map of the area and can circled places on the map where the horses had most recently been seen. They also offered some information about the herds. The center also sells books, photos of the horses and souvenir. They have guide books on how to identify the horses.
For more details, click on this link: http://www.pryormustangs.org/tours.shtml
- Local guided tours
- Private guided Tours. This is how I did mine. I searched online and found a professional photographer who can help with private tour. His name is Michael Francis, he is very knowledgable about natures wildlife and how to track them. He is a great guy, very friendly and highly recommended. He is a fultime internationally published wildlife and scenic photographer and runs local and international guided and photography tours. Check his website: http://www.michaelfrancisphoto.com/
Tour Dates: May through October
How to track Wild horses
- When you are tracking wild horses, look for well-worn pathways through the scrub and grasslands. Horses, like elephants and antelope, prefer to follow trails they know – these are easily spotted from a high ridge or a waterhole.
- Look for stud piles where passing stallions will pooh on top of the pile year after year. It is a territorial statement and usually the most dominant stallion will defecate last. Perhaps when stallions sniff the pile, they test the testosterone level of their rivals or determine when rivals last moved through the area.
- Where you find fresh dung, scan the horizon and the scrub with binoculars looking for bright color or any movement. Just a whisk of a tail can alert you to wild ones.
- Watch for dusty areas cleared of scrub where horses roll to get rid of biting insects. Now that is a picture to get! Quickly have your camera ready because rolling doesn’t last long and as soon as they are on their feet, horses give a quick shake – that dust cloud is gorgeous especially if the sun is behind the wild ones.
How to read Wild Horses Signals
Learn to read wild horses’ signals and you can get some stunning action shots – or quickly get out of the way of danger.
Band members communicate with subtle sounds and postures. A soft whinny may call in scattered band members or rambunctious foals at play. A snort can be a gentle warning or protest. A scream will instantly alert the whole band to take action as one body.
Wild horses – like all prey species – have great hearing and sense of smell. If you see one or two horses lift their heads and flare their nostrils, look in the direction of their ears are pointing. You may spot an intruding stallion or a predator like a bear – that is just enough warning to get your camera ready for explosive action.
Wild horses may appear to ignore you, but watch their ears. One ear will be cocked in your direction, while the other ear points elsewhere. Unlike domestic horses, they’ll keep an eye or ear on you until they prove that you are no threat so don’t chatter to your fellow humans. Stay quiet like a wild horse.
Do not approach wild horses directly because they will instinctively move away. Flight is their best weapon against a hunter. So meander toward them indirectly.
Predators stalking horses & burros lock their gaze on their prey so don’t stare at a wild horse’s eyes. Look somewhere else and keep your head low – submission please.
If a band of horses looks nervous, you might sit or kneel down until they relax.
A stallion may circle around to get a good look at you and can charge if he feels you are a threat. Usually he will pull up short in the nick of time, but meanwhile the band will disappear and your photography will end right there so don’t push it.
Always carry good binoculars and use your camera’s telephoto lens so you can enjoy their behavior without getting close enough to frighten them off.
Always keep a comfortable distance from wild horses. By law that is 10 feet in the heavily visited Chincoteague herds on Assateague Island in Maryland & Virginia. Even a simple camera has a good telephoto range so rely on it to get safe shots.
Do not feed wild horses. If you are foolish enough to offer a wild horse a treat, a senior or dominant mare may punish it with a kick or bite – and your body may be in the way. Don’t meddle in their social structure or the alpha horse may teach you a painful lesson.
Wild horses don’t normally behave dangerously toward people. However, they do startle easily and may suddenly kick out or run. Over a thousand pounds of frightened horse can hurt you without meaning to.
Pictures of me and my private tour guide, Michael Francis