WISHEK (AP) - Theodore Roosevelt National Park sold more than 100 wild horses during a weekend auction aimed at thinning the herd to a size the park can accommodate.
The park maintains a demonstration herd of what it calls feral horses to commemorate the wild horses that roamed the badlands when Theodore Roosevelt ranched in the area during the 1880s, before he went on to the White House.
All of the horses up for bids sold during Saturday's auction at the old Wishek Livestock barn, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
Lance, a red roan yearling, fetched $2,800 - the top price of the day. And auctioneer Clyde Meidinger said it's the highest priced horse he's sold in years.
Other horses commanded from $1,200 to $2,700, but most sold for about $450 each. Proceeds after commission go back to the park for the horse program.
Many of the horses were purchased in an orchestrated effort among groups and individuals to keep them out of kill barns. Nearly three dozen will be transported to Legacy Mustang conservancy in Virginia, where they will be trained and some will be adopted.
"This was a team effort," said Deb Fjetland, a member of the North Dakota Badlands Horse. "I could not be happier."
Meidinger said he called the kill buyers and told them not to come.
"I told 'em the sale would probably go smoother if they stayed home," Meidinger said.
Eight specially hired horsemen rotated through with the horses into the small front sales ring and worked the pens out back. The riders got a standing ovation after the sale from the audience of about 250 people.
Horseman David Just said "calm and patience" were watchwords of the day, along with a few hand gestures, a few quiet whistles and no flags.
"I was nervous. Some were pretty high-spirited," he said.
More than 90 people picked up bid cards and 38 buyers from California, Canada, Virginia and states in between left with horses.
Maggie Bauer, who has worked for three years with the park's wild horses as part of a contraceptive research program, said she had a good feeling about the sale, even as horses were being split up from their traditional bands and family groups.
"I'm impressed with how much they sold for and the quality homes they're going to," she said. "There were a lot of good people here."