Ol' Blackie, a mule owned by Nik Hougen, has been living in the north fork of Mill Creek Canyon. The area is closed to livestock grazing to protect sensitive resources, according to the Bureau of Land Management. The mule will be impounded by the BLM once it is captured. [Photo courtesy / Grand County Sheriff's Office]

The Bureau of Land Management issued a notice of intent to impound a mule that is now living in the Mill Creek area.

The BLM first observed the mule on public lands late last fall, but based on citizens’ reports, the mule may have been there since summer.

“Callers expressed concern for the mule’s health and the potential resource impacts by its presence in the canyon,” according to a BLM press release.

The mule is in Mill Creek Canyon, primarily the north fork of Mill Creek and includes lands contained in the Mill Creek and Between the Creeks allotments.

“These allotments are closed to livestock grazing in order to protect sensitive resources in the area,” according to the press release.

The BLM began attempts to contact the mule’s owner, Nik Hougen, in November 2013.

Hougen wrote a letter to editor of The Times-Independent in December addressed to the Humane Society of Moab Valley.

“There is nothing criminal in letter an old mule die a dignified, natural death in his own backyard,” wrote Hougen. “I also want everyone to know that I am taking good care of Ol’ Blackie. He was my hard-working buddy.”

Hougen went on to state that on Blackie’s home range, he “would starve to death.”

“Where he is right now is the best place for him,” Hougen wrote.

The mule is reportedly 20 years old or more. It is dark brown and its brand may not be visible due to winter coat and age.

Upon confirming the mule’s location on public lands, the BLM has worked closely with the Grand County Sheriff’s Department to remedy the matter through the BLM’s administratively required process.

“The Grand County Sheriff’s Office has been very helpful and I’m grateful for their support and assistance in dealing with this matter,” BLM Moab field manager Beth Ransel said. “I am also very appreciative of the citizens that have called to express concerns for the mule. The information they have provided has been very useful during this process.”

Daryl Meacham, a deputy in the sheriff’s office, said that he and other deputies saw the mule in January.

“The mule appeared to be in good health,” Meacham said. “There’s a lot of feed in there.”

Meacham and the other deputies chose not to bring the mule out of the canyon because of unsafe icy conditions that could have been dangerous to both the animal and rescuers. They took a photo of the mule and shared it with veterinarian Len Sorensen, who said the animal appeared to be in good health.

“He agreed that it didn’t look like it was starving,” Meacham said.

Grand County Sheriff Steve White said that as the warm weather melts the ice, his staff will try to retrieve the animal again.

Sheriff’s deputies report it is in good health

“Callers expressed concern for the mule’s health and the potential resource impacts by its presence in the canyon.”