DURANGO The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating why a private plane was flying low over the corrals where wild horses were being rounded up Sept. 16 in the Spring Creek Basin in San Miguel County.
A Cessna 182D circled the gather site from afar at first, but flew ever closer as bands of mustangs were herded into the corrals.
On one occasion, the plane passed directly over and close to the helicopter conducting the roundup.
The helicopter pilot landed his craft as a precaution at least two times when the Cessna entered the area. The gather for the day was called off early.
Mike Fergus, a spokesman for the Northwest Mountain Region of the FAA in Renton, Wash., confirmed that an investigation of the incident is underway.
We cant say anything while the case is open, Fergus said.
The result of the probe could be two days, two weeks or two months away, Fergus said.
Its unclear who was flying the plane the day of the roundup.
The Cessna was identified by its tail number N8881X as belonging to Don Colcord of Nucla.
The plane was loaned out the day in question, Colcord said in a phone interview Monday.
I am really, really upset, he said. I simply did not know my plane was doing anything of the sort.
Colcord said his plane is leased to an electrical engineering company in Telluride and is typically flown by the owner of the company. Colcord was told the plane was flown the day of the gather by another Telluride resident. On advice from FAA and U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials, Colcord declined to give the name of the alleged pilot.
I definitely was not flying my plane that day and had no idea it was being used for such activity, Colcord said Monday. I would never have given my permission for the plane to be used in such a way.
No one from the BLM, which conducted the mustang roundup that ended Sunday, can comment, Shannon Borders, a BLM spokeswoman, said Thursday.
Fifty-three mustangs were corralled. Thirteen were released back on the range. Twenty-five horses will be offered for adoption Saturday at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds. The remainder will be sent to the BLM long-term holding facility near Cañon City, Borders said.
Journal Staff Writer Kimberly Benedict contributed to this report.