Congressional committee seeking solutions to wild horse populations

By David Louis

RAWLINS — A Congressional subcommittee on federal lands last week attempted to answer a long-standing question: what to do about wild horses grazing on public lands.

It was not a new debate.

Solutions to control the ever-increasing numbers of wild horses both on the range and in holding facilities included widespread castration and neutering of horses — a program currently under study — as well as lifting the prohibition of slaughtering horses.

Although there are no plans to slaughter horses, Wednesday’s meeting signaled a troubling turn of events for the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC).

“I think we are reaching a very serious tipping point where the public lands ranchers and their political allies are making a big push to slaughter as many as 80,000 horses that are in holding pens and horses they consider to be excess on the range,” AWHPC Director Suzanne Roy said.

“This was a very biased subcommittee meeting that I attended where there were three witnesses from the ranching point of view of essentially advocating the slaughter of horses and conduct vast roundups employing surgical sterilization,” Roy said.

Although other western states are progressing with plans to conduct studies how sterilization may affect movement patterns, Wyoming is more than a year off on its initial steps, said Public Affairs Specialist, Brad Purdy, for the Wyoming state office of Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

“We do have the White Mountain and Little Colorado Herd Management Area (HMA) gather starting in either July or August, and this does have a research component,” Purdy said.

“Obviously we are over AML (appropriate management level) in both of those areas. There will be a gather, but we are also going to put radio collars on some of the horses. Then there will be a study to analyze their movements,” he said. “So, in about one year from now, there will be another gather where we will do some spay and neutering and examine how their behavior plays out.”

But, Purdy said, the agency’s deputy director “is pretty specific that BLM is not looking at slaughtering animals.”

“This is not on the table right now.”

Dealing with the west’s wild horse population is a costly endeavor.

Congress appropriated more than $77.2 million to the Wild Horse and Burro Program in fiscal year 2015

Of the total $75.1 million spent, holding costs accounted for $49 million, or 65.7 percent. Roundups and removals cost $1.8 million and adoption events cost $6.3 million.

The BLM estimates there are slightly more than 58,000 wild horses and burros on 42 million acres of federally managed rangeland in 10 Western states. Wyoming’s population is estimated at more than 3,500.

For some, slaughtering wild horses and selling the meat to countries that consume it may be a reasonable solution and a fiscally sound approach.

Though Carbon County Commissioner and rancher John Espy would not go so far as to advocate slaughter, he did say “Something’s got to happen and right now that’s unfortunately probably one of the few solutions out there.”

“We’ve got to try anything. The herds grow at a rate of 20 percent a year and the sheer numbers that are in holding facilitates is a good indication that the adoption program isn’t working as it was hoped in the beginning,” Espy said.

BLM did confirm that adoption rates have declined in recent years.

“I think it’s a very dangerous time for wild horses, and I do think the agenda is at odds with the majority of Americans who overwhelmingly apposes horse slaughter,” Roy said. “I think both the Democrats and Republicans should respect the will of the people, and we have to mount a very grassroots campaign to show that there is an extremist agenda.”

Espy disagrees with this premise.

“In some areas you can remove ranchers from the public range, but it’s postponing the inevitable,” he said. “Wild horses have no natural predators, and unless we control the population this will get out of hand.”

A contentious issue, finding consensus on controlling the wild horse population may never happen Roy said.

“I think what has happened is that BLM has not implemented solutions. They’ve actually decreased the use of PZP as a humane method of birth control method and at the same time decreasing removals,” she said.

“I think there is no other explanation for BLM’s failure to implement solutions that they have at hand, other than the agency has an agenda and the agenda is to slaughter our wild horses.”

20 Responses to Congressional committee seeking solutions to wild horse populations

  1. Nancy OBrien June 29, 2016 at 9:14 am

    There isn’t a wild horse population problem. These horses need to stay wild . There is a greedy people problem!!!

  2. Barbara Chichester June 29, 2016 at 9:37 am

    Maybe relocating them to a different state or territory would help. It would be a crime to destroy 80,000 beautiful horses.

  3. Jeanette Ortiz June 29, 2016 at 10:07 am

    Please stop the slaughter of these beautiful wild horses……they don t deserve this…….they deserve to be free! They are part of our western heritage and have lived free for hundreds of years……it’s only because of greed, the BLM and the cattle ranchers! It will be a sad sad day if this happens!!!

  4. Peter June 29, 2016 at 10:23 am

    I think that they should think about getting rid of some of all the cattle running around and leave the horses alone. You are treating the wild horses like you treated the nativ Indians you should be ashamed about your self

  5. Marybeth Devlin June 29, 2016 at 10:46 am

    The kangaroo-court hearing was rigged — intentionally stacked against the wild horses. What a disgraceful event.

    Overpopulation is the Big Lie, the pretext for BLM’s war against the wild horses. It’s BLM’s version of the “Shock Doctrine,” wherein BLM concocted a phony crisis to push through policies antithetical to the Wild Horse Act against the will of The People.

    There is no overpopulation of wild horses. In fact, per the guidelines of BLM’s own geneticist, more than 70% of the herds suffer from arbitrary management levels (AMLs) set below minimum-viable population (MVP). Low AMLs enable BLM to claim an “excess” in herds whose numbers, even if they were over AML, would still not reach MVP. Low AMLs, along with falsified, biologically-impossible herd-growth estimates, give BLM an excuse to scapegoat those few wild horses for the range-damage done by the millions of livestock that overgraze the public lands.

    As for the wild horses being held in captivity, according to BLM, their mortality rate is about 8% a year. So, obviously, since they are not reproducing, their numbers will steadily drop, showing that BLM’s billion-dollar figure for their care is bogus — it’s just another lie. Meanwhile, BLM is handing out $11 million for “studies” to develop a Final Solution to the overpopulation “problem”. All manner of sicko experiments are being devised, such as performing sterilization-surgeries on mares under filthy conditions — literally in a corral. Clearly, the goal is extermination.

    As for adoptions, they have not declined. It’s just that BLM used to count sales-for-slaughter as “adoptions.” Now, only “forever-family” placements qualify. However, mustangs are not homeless horses. They are wild horses that belong at home — on the range.

    BLM is a corrupt agency embedded with special interests, vested interests, and conflicts of interest. It needs to be reformed.

  6. Wild Bill June 29, 2016 at 11:12 am

    hide yo wife, hide yo kids
    I don’t mind a nice horse-ka-bob on the grill every once in a while

  7. Cheri Stenka June 29, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    Our Government is the cause,if we expect to get change,we need to start there. These people only listen to those with the highest dollar amount, These beautiful animals have been there a hell of a lot longer,than anyone of you that are hiding behind desk and a hell of a lot longer than any of our rich pals cattle. Get your hands OFF!! these beautiful animals. Every one of you Senators and Reps,are on the enviroment and protecting it,why is it then you can’t see how your destroying it by killing off these animals,and moving cattle in. This type of cruelity makes you the biggest animal abusers on the planet.

  8. Rowland E. Gregory June 29, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    BLM ” HAS NOT” Done the Job they were Expected to Do !
    Their ” Single Goal ” Seems to be ” SLAUGHTER ” or
    Use Dangerous Sterialization Methods !! THIS IS ” INHUMAN” & CANNOT BE ALLOED TO HAPPEN ! LISTEN TO PEOPLE
    SUCH aS Mustang MEG, WHO, First Hand has SEEN What
    Methods WORK to LIMIT THE number of Wild Horses ! The RANCHERS Know of ONLY ONE Solutio & That is To
    Eliminate Them from OUR PUBLIC LANDS! THIS IS GREED!

  9. Kathy Defrese June 29, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    I think that the wild horses do have natural enemies, humans, mountain lions, wolves. The wild horses we use to see going into Nevada are no more, its a crying shame that the voice of the people aren’t listened too.

  10. iracema patton June 29, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Do not slaughter wild horses..who do u think u are?
    There is a people problem not a horse problem!!

  11. lorijohnson June 29, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    Public owned land! Leave the mustangs alone. Let the cattle graze on the private land the ranchers own.

  12. Zita F June 30, 2016 at 12:35 am

    I ask the Congressional Commettee to look for scientific data, and evidences.

    As far as I know today there is 1 horse to 2000 acre of public land. Not even close to overpopulation.

    Ecological fact: that resource availability among others controls population density. Common sense says the same: before human control all species of wildlife maintained its natural density without human interference.

    If you see the pictures about certain herds and round ups, yoy see that the vegetations is quite abundant in most places, able to maintain way bigger hetds.

    Before moving one finger I encourage you to see some scientific research in certain vegetation type what area is is necessary to maintain certain amount of horses.

    I also would like to mention that mistake that states horses are competing with cattle. Their digestive systems are very different therfore they eat different part of the vegetation. They have different needs.

    Several thousand horses alltogether cannot be responsible for overgrazing, where several millions cattle are fed.

    Last but not least we are talking about public land – where “publicly owned” horses allowed to graze, while cattle belong to their rancher and supposed to feed on their private land. Cattle rancher have to be grateful if the are allowed to graze in public land, and not demanding more and more from what they do not have rights to.

    I strongly object to use my tax to any form of animal abuse like round up or strelization, ir aly other BLM activity that endangers wild horses natural living , behavior or habitat.

    Thank you for your consiredation!

  13. Wild Bill June 30, 2016 at 5:38 am

    Elmers glue is running low on resources….their paying top dollar right now

  14. Denise June 30, 2016 at 6:56 am

    Blm says it has 42 million acres and that’s not enough land to hold these wonderful horses bullshit you and the ranchers are greedy rotten evil people. I don’t have anything nice to say about either one Blm or ranchers. God put them here you have no right to kill them. Wouldn’t it b wonderful for your children and grandchildren to see these horses running free and wild and the babies playing? Don’t tell us you don’t have enough land to hold them because we all know that’s bull.

  15. Wild Bill June 30, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    We could sell horse hunts and use the money to pay down national debt….or to buy blow with.
    I could use another shoulder mount myself.

  16. Cheryl Bowe June 30, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    From this article……“We do have the White Mountain and Little Colorado Herd Management Area (HMA) gather starting in either July or August, and this does have a research component,” Purdy said. (end quote)
    Please make note of the fact that there are only 598 wild horses on 1,022,952 HMA acres. (According to BLM fact sheets)
    Those numbers are never included in these discussions, yet repeatedly when HMA acres and herd counts are listed side by side, it is always obvious the wild herds are not overpopulated.
    “Over AML” means nothing, when AML on 1,022,952 acres is
    205-300 wild horses in the White Mountain HMA
    (current population 268)
    and 69-100 wild horses in the Little Colorado HMA
    (current population 330.
    Those are the wild horses they will be experimenting on with collars and spay surgeries.

    To repeat: 598 wild horses on 1,022,952 Herd Management Area acres, and even those few remaining will be harassed by a department charged to protect them.

    • Val Cecama-Hogsett July 6, 2016 at 4:36 pm

      Spaying mares is NOT cost effective, not safe and not legal per wildlife laws in Oregon. The BLM has repeatedly paid for and then ignored scientifc studies on the best way to achieve population controls. If they truly want what is best for the wild horses they would listen to the reccommendations of the National Academy of Science report done in 2013 which stated the BEST options were PZP native and PZP 22. The BLM makes a claim that these vaccines are not working well enough, or too hard to use in large Herd Management Areas. What BLM doesn’t tell you because they do not want the TRUTH known is that they only spend 1% of their annual budget on fertility control, or that they only darted 469 mares with pzp in 2015. They do not tell you that the total cost not only of the surgical experiments to sterilize horses, including round up, holding, medicines, the surgery itself, and the post operative care and complications is MUCH MORE than the cost of darting wild horses with pzp. This can be achieved using advocate or volunteer groups, which they are doing in Sandwash Basin, McCullough, Assateague and several other herds. It also has been done via helicopter. An entire herd can be darted with a minimum time frame for harassment versus hours of dangerous chases via helicopter, and less hours means less cost. BLM refuses to show the public or you the media the truth. DEMAND they be held accountable for the lies and misleading remarks of over-population, costs associated with surgical procedures that have already been done and proven to have extreme high numbers of fatalities ither from the surgery itself or the complications from the surgery after (which are not included in the death statistics). As journalists we depend on you to look at the facts, and how statistics may have been half-reported or skewed to favor one outcome or opinion. Please do your job. I am always available for further conversations or to provide proof of our claims. Is BLM? DOI? or any other Federal Agency put in charge of managing our wild horses or public lands? For further information contact us: Citizens Against Equine Slaughter at

  17. Jen Howe July 7, 2016 at 7:10 am

    It’s always mentioned how much the wild horses cost the taxpayer, but what about ranchers and farmers? $322.7 BILLION between 1995 – 2014. Here it, is broken down into political districts:

  18. Barbara Schatt July 7, 2016 at 7:42 am

    These experiments have been done BEFORE! The BLM is not telling you that 50,000 of those horses are in pens already, as a matter of fact they just added another 100+. The surgeries are not done under any sort of sterility protocol which guarantees post surgical shock and infection, which they have already proven. The BLM does not solicit advocate assistance, where they have it, the partnership works very well. Advocate groups could supply labor and equipment to dart the mares with birth control and bait/trap the horses or they could do it by helicopter, which would reduce reproductive rates. Advocates are not against reproductive control, we are against the way they want to go about it which is just obscene! Advocates can also help in placing some of the horses selected for removal and for birth control, thereby bettering herd health. Just because they are a government agency doesn’t mean they are telling the whole truth!

  19. charlene p williams July 26, 2016 at 7:59 am

    Please e-mail president Obama and tell him that there needs to be an IMMEDIATE stop to roundups! The BLM has totally messed up this wild horse and burro management. There needs to be an investigation into BLM activities, including grazing leases, and they need to be accountable for their actions. The poor animals in holding pens need to be placed somewhere or set free. Keep e-mailing until you get a response. Also contact your congresspeople. Read Wild Horse Education for more info. This whole thing makes me sick!


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