POLSON – This particular year-end update has become joyfully obligatory, and Jerry Sawyer seems to get a kick out of the annual phone call from the Missoulian.
His reports of the seemingly imminent demise of the oldest wild horse on Wild Horse Island again appear, Sawyer allows, to have been greatly exaggerated.
How the horse does it, he has no idea.
“He’s still going,” says Sawyer, who manages the seven state parks on Flathead Lake for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “One of our biologists was just doing a (bighorn) sheep count on the island, and he saw all the horses and said they were looking good. I don’t know what the old guy’s secret is, but whatever he’s eating, I wish I could get some.”
Sawyer had been predicting the old horse would likely not survive another winter for four or five winters now, and with good reason.
The last survivor of a 1992 transplant of wild horses onto the island has several times appeared to be days from a natural death’s door. Four years ago Sawyer said the ancient gelding ‘s ribs were clearly visible beneath his hide even though the island was lush with vegetation at the time.
It looked like the old boy’s internal organs were shutting down, Sawyer said back then.
There didn’t seem to be any way the old horse could ever survive another winter, and when he’d emerge intact – if little more than skin and bones – each successive spring, he sometimes looked like he might not even make it through one more summer.
He’s had difficulty shedding his winter coat every year for the past few, giving him an even more decrepit appearance. There has been an occasion or two over the past four to five years Sawyer has wondered aloud if the end might be just days away.
“Last spring, he looked more like a musk ox than a horse,” Sawyer says. “His metabolism isn’t what it needs to be, which is why he has trouble shedding his winter coat.”… Read the full story.