WARWICK, Mass. — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management recaptured an adopted wild horse here Friday, almost three weeks after she had fled a farm in Winchester.
Lisa Reynolds adopted the wild mare from the agency during an event at the Cheshire Fairgrounds in North Swanzey in late August. Tasked with managing the wild horses on public lands, the Bureau of Land Management adopts out some horses as a population-control measure.
Within days, the animal escaped from Reynolds’ property, eventually moving south of the state line. Last week, the horse appeared to be living in the forested expanse covering Mount Grace in Warwick.
Despite multiple sightings of the animal, volunteer search efforts had not succeeded by the time a Bureau of Land Management team drove in from the Midwest last week.
Steve Meyer, the supervisory wild horse and burro specialist for the bureau’s Northeastern States District, based in Milwaukee, arrived in the area Sept. 12 with two colleagues.
On Friday, Meyer and his team were working to set up a trap that would use another horse to lure the mustang into an enclosure.
“They’re herd animals, and if they’re out there on their own, they’re looking for a friend,” Meyer said Tuesday.
Then, the team got word that the horse had wandered into a barn. A noisy domesticated horse inside kept the wild mare occupied. Meyer said he was able to sneak in and shut the structure’s open back door. “The mare basically caught herself.”
Reynolds won’t get the mare back. The Bureau of Land Management has taken the animal to a holding facility in Illinois, where it will be “gentled,” or trained, before the government finds it a new home, according to Meyer.
He said that in escaped-horse cases, the agency gives adopted owners time to corral the animal but will step in at a certain point if those efforts are unsuccessful.
Generally, owners who recapture the horses themselves can hang on to them, he said, but that changes once Bureau of Land Management personnel get involved. “If we have to catch it, then it comes back to us.”
Reynolds said the agency is unfairly blaming her for an escape that wasn’t her fault and criticized its adoption procedures as too lax.
“If you adopt a dog from the humane society, you can bet your backside that they’re gonna do a home visit, they’re gonna make sure that you can properly care for it,” she said. Though she keeps eight horses on her farm and has fostered various animals, she said hosting a wild horse was new to her.
Reynolds said the horse — whom she named Whinny — was calm and friendly during the few days it stayed with her. She said the horse escaped after breaking a wooden fence post, bringing down other sections of the fence.
Meyer questioned that version of the escape. “It’s not the story she gave me,” he said, though he declined to elaborate, citing privacy concerns.
He said Bureau of Land Management personnel do not generally inspect the adopted horses’ new homes, but owners who follow the agency’s rules and regulations should be able to keep the horses contained.
Warwick Police Chief David Shoemaker said his department fielded several reports about the loose animal, but she didn’t cause any trouble.
Meyer said the horse appeared to be in good shape after weeks in the forest. Compared to living in the arid West, he said, “she had more food and water than she ever grew up with.”