About 15 miles north of Emmett is 25,806 acres of rolling hills, prominent buttes and ridgelines that make up the Bureau of Land Management’s Four-Mile Wild Horse Management Area (HMA). Elevations vary from 2,500 to about 5,400 feet.
The Four-Mile population census taken in February 2018 was 128 horses according to Boise District BLM Wild Horse and Burro Specialist Raul Trevino.
History of Gem’s wild horses
The Four-Mile horses originated from domestic stock owned by those living in the Big Willow Creek and Four-Mile Creek areas. Pinto horses were raised by Jack Macomb in the 1930s in the Four Mile Canyon. Others raised horses in the area including Nelson McCullough on Willow Creek, Tom Wilburn on South Crane Creek and Walter Knox on the Indian Jake Ranch. These horses were not considered wild according to the BLM until people came and tried to catch them or chase them. Being difficult to corral, they were considered wild. Sixty-five privately owned horses were rounded up and removed in 1965.
At the passage of the Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act in 1971, two HMAs were identified and BLM was given authority to manage wild horses and burros on public lands. There were 75 horses in the 4-Mile HMA and West Crane HMA. Decisions removed the horses permanently from West Crane and reduced the Four-Mile to the appropriate management level of 20 head for rangeland health.
An aerial survey in 1972 counted a total of 13 adult and two foals. Of those, one was a mule, one wore a halter and another horse wore hobbles.
During a 1986 wildfire in the Four-Mile HMA, 14,000 acres burned. The horses were removed January 1987 due to a lack of forage on their home range and to allow vegetation recovery. The area was aerially seeded with grasses and forbs. Then in the fall of 1991, nine horses from the Owyhee Resource Area were introduced back into the Four-Mile HMA. Three years later there were 12 head on 18,018 acres.
Currently there are 128 horses in the HMA. The Low Allowable Management level is 37 head for the area, so the BLM is in the process of gathering and removing horses to meet the allowable number. BLM manages a total of six wild horse herd management areas in Idaho on approximately 418,000 acres of private, public and state lands.
As of March 1, 2018, the wild horse and burro population on public lands was estimated at 82,000 animals, which is more than triple the number of animals the land can support in conjunction with other legally mandated land uses. Four-Mile HMA is also overpopulated.