Pair of escaped Forest Service horses found after making 12-mile trek near Continental Divide Trail
Kerri Lange was panicking.
On Sept. 30, Lange, a rangeland management specialist with the U.S. Forest Service, stopped in at the Summit Creek Guard Station in North Routt County to check in with some of the Forest Service’s hardest workers.
When she got there, Fox and Arnold were nowhere to be seen.
“I started panicking,” Lange said about the moment when she saw the empty corral at the guard station where she had left the two horses.
The Forest Service generally uses them as pack horses when they need to work in areas with rough terrain. But to Lange, who grew up with horses, the horses are more than just another tool.
She walked the fence but didn’t see any flaws. She questioned whether the duo was stolen, as the laydown fence would make it easy to walk off with them. There was a lower part of the fence that maybe they jumped over, but Lange said she only thought one could make it over.
“Arnold, the black one, he is a pretty tall horse, so he potentially could have just stepped right over,” Lang said. “But Fox, the other one … I don’t know if he suddenly became a jumping horse, I just don’t know.”
Lange followed the horse’s tracks from the guard station north on Routt County Road 129, but eventually they got off the road. She continued to drive up and down through North Routt but to no avail.
When she returned to the guard station she notified the Routt County Sheriff’s Office, Forest Service Law Enforcement and the brand inspector about the missing mustangs, and the search continued.
A friend of Lange’s spread the word on Facebook, and the Forest Service took to Twitter telling anyone with information about the horses to call the guard station.
“I think we had about five forest service employees out looking for them on ATVs,” said Nicole Cookson, with visitor information for the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest.
On Sunday, a hiker on the Continental Divide Trail thought they spotted the horses. Absent cellphone service, they flagged down a Forest Service officer and eventually word got back to Lange.
She set out on an ATV trail to reach the horses, while another hiked a different path to ensure they didn’t miss them. At around 12:30 p.m., Lange found them.
Lange haltered the horses and began the trek to hike them back to the truck and return them to the guard station, ending the equines’ excursion in the backcountry.
The horses had traveled about 12 miles over roughly three days that they were missing. Other than a minor scrape on each of them, Fox and Arnold were just fine.
“They seemed perfectly content,” Lange said, adding that they each had a minor scrape that only required a little first-aid. “Arnold just sat there and stared at us. … Fox wouldn’t even come to me until I rattled my bag of honey-roasted peanuts.”
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