Mesa Verde National Park has begun operations to relocate trespass livestock from the park, an effort the National Park Service developed with public input over several years. The Colorado Chapter of the National Mustang Association is assisting the park by providing volunteers, planning, and logistical support for these operations.
The initial phase of the project began in late September with the capture of a single horse using low-stress, livestock handling techniques. Park managers will hold trespass livestock for up to 30 days, provide veterinarian care as needed, and will follow the methods prescribed by the American Veterinarian Medical Association.
Mesa Verde National Park was established to preserve and protect architecture, objects, and landscapes associated with the Ancestral Pueblo people that occupied Mesa Verde and the Four Corners area. The presence of trespass livestock is inconsistent with the park’s mission to preserve the cultural and natural resources within the park. Additionally, Mesa Verde National Park does not have the legal authority to allow livestock use within the park under 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Subpart 2.60.
Trespass livestock are unclaimed livestock that are generally domesticated or the offspring of domesticated livestock. More information on trespass livestock removal can be found on the park’s website at www.nps.gov/meve/learn/management/livestock-removal.htm
Frequently Asked Questions
Why can’t the National Park Service allow livestock to remain in the park?
Mesa Verde National Park was established to preserve and protect the architecture, objects, and landscapes associated with the Ancestral Pueblo culture that occupied Mesa Verde and the Four Corners area. Mesa Verde National Park does not have the legal authority to allow livestock use within the park. Livestock use is also inconsistent with park’s mission. The special status given to all unbranded and unclaimed horses and burros on western public land by the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (P.L. 92-195) does not apply to the National Park Service, only to lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and United States Forest Service.
How does the National Park Service plan remove livestock from within the park?
Mesa Verde National Park is using low-stress livestock methods to capture and remove horses. These methods include baited pen traps and low-stress movement. Horses will be humanely cared for while in the capture facility and receive veterinarian care as needed. Capture and care procedures are approved by a National Park Service veterinarian. Horses will then be donated to partner groups such as the Colorado Chapter of the National Mustang Association. Cattle will likewise be captured and removed by park staff except where remote conditions make removal unsafe for cattle and park staff, in which case cattle may have to be euthanized.
What will happen to the livestock once they are captured?
Captured horses inside the park will be held at a holding facility within the park for up to 30 days. The National Park Service will coordinate with the Colorado Brand Commission and local brand inspectors to identify brands and owners. Care of horses will follow humane methods as defined by the American Veterinarian Medical Association and protocols developed by NPS veterinarians. After 30 days unbranded, unclaimed trespass horses will be donated to the park partner group, the Colorado Chapter of the National Mustang Association.
Last updated: January 9, 2023