RANGELY, Colo. (CBS4)– The roundup of wild horses in northwest Colorado has divided ranchers in the rural area of the state.

The Bureau of Land Management conducts the operation south and west of the rural town of Rangely in Rio Blanco County, along the Utah border.

The BLM uses helicopters to roundup the horses from the land and into temporary pens.

“This is horrible what they are doing to these horses,” said wild horse advocate Maggie Cason.

“We watched a baby roped and chased … it was scared,” said another wild horse supporter. “These horses are going through such an extreme stress.”

The BLM said this roundup is the most humane way they can manage a growing herd of horses on the Western Slope. They say if they don’t manage the wild horse population many of them will die of starvation.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“We have very little resources to manage horse numbers. We can either gather or we can do fertility control… we get sued when we do either,” said BLM spokesman Christopher Joyner.

The BLM spends thousands of dollars to gather and then hold the horses in large pens located across the county. An estimated 59,000 horses have been captured from the wild across the country and are in holding pens so far this year.

“The herd doubles in size every four years, they continuously grow and they really don’t have any natural predators,” said rancher Logan Hill.

Hill is a fifth-generation rancher. He said the wild horses eat all the natural food sources that he relies on for his cattle to graze.

Wild horse roundup near Rangely (credit: CBS)

Wild horse roundup near Rangely (credit: CBS)

Animal advocates don’t think the interest in local ranchers outweighs what they view as an abuse of horses who call the region home.

“They’re bringing in the horses way over here and they’re running them way down there,” said Cason.

During the roundup two horses had to be euthanized. One was captured on video limping.

Among the horses rounded up near Rangely, 167 will be transported to Canon City where they will be broken and adopted out.

Matt Kroschel covers news throughout Colorado working from the CBS4 Mountain Newsroom. Send story ideas to mrkroschel@cbs.com and connect with him on Twitter @Matt_Kroschel.

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