Some people want to love feral horses to death

This wild mare and foal were among a group of mustangs removed from a range in Nevada last year because they were starving. (BLM photo)

This wild mare and foal were among a group of mustangs removed from a range in Nevada last year because they were starving. (BLM photo)

This is driving the horse huggers bat guano crazy.

This past Friday at a meeting in Elko the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board voted to recommend to Bureau of Land Management that it actually follow the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 “by offering all suitable animals in long and short term holding deemed unadoptable for sale without limitation or humane euthanasia. Those animals deemed unsuitable for sale should then be destroyed in the most humane manner possible,” according to the Elko Daily Free Press account.

The recommendation was approved by all the board members except one after the board toured the range land in the area and saw first hand the degradation of the land caused by an overpopulation of feral horses.

The newspaper quoted board member Dr. Robert Cope as saying that after the field trip “it became so obvious there’s an incredible crisis situation out there affecting the resource” and “something has got to be done.”

The current problem is that Congress has for years prohibited using federal funds to follow the law and euthanize unadoptable wild horses and burros or even allowing them to be sold for processing into commercial products.

The Humane Society put out a press release saying: “The decision of the BLM advisory board to recommend the destruction of the 45,000 wild horses currently in holding facilities is a complete abdication of responsibility for their care. The agency would not be in this situation but for their long-term mis-management. Alternatives to this proposal have been ignored for over 20 years. The HSUS stands ready to implement these alternatives at any time.”
There are an estimated 70,000 wild horses and burros on the open range, 40,000 more than the range can handle, and that number can grow by 9,000 a year without intervention.
Coincidentally, on the same day the advisory board recommended euthanizing excess horses, the BLM canceled an experimental program to test sterilization techniques, because it was being sued by some self-styled animal rights groups.
The Congressional Western Caucus responded with a press release saying, “Responsible sterilization could help stem the exploding wild horse populations on federal lands in the West. Yet the BLM dropped the project under the threat of litigation by a special interest group. BLM Director Neil Kornze has said his agency is ‘overwhelmed’ by the growing herds, and described the situation as dire. The wild horse and burro population is nearly triple what the rangelands can support. As a result, the lands are being obliterated and the horses are dying of thirst and starvation.”
That’s what the advisory board found. The Elko paper reports today that the BLM is having to haul water to horses in the Ely district.
But some people want to love the horses to death.

32 comments on “Some people want to love feral horses to death

  1. A.D. Hopkins says:

    Facing reality is often unpleasant, but the advisory board appears to be doing it. Hope realism spreads. I helped get the Wild Horse And Burro Act passed, but never foresaw that it would be misused so badly as to condemn thousands and thousands of horses to lifelong starvation.

  2. The act was rational. The application is nuts.

  3. dee21701 says:

    They still don’t deserve to be killed because of BLM’s incompetence!! Give back the land that was designated to them in the beginning, before it was whittled down to accommodate the true non-native species, cattle.

  4. It’s the cattle grazing land that has been whittled. Horses are feral.

  5. Reziac says:

    “The HSUS stands ready to implement these alternatives at any time.”

    So long as 1) it can make experienced animal managers look incompetent (the fact that HSUS has near-zero competence and near-zero experience with animals being irrelevant), and 2) someone else foots the bill.

    It’s all about getting those donation to pour in. HSUS is a money laundry that has found the best heartstrings to tug to open Americans’ wallets.

    And HSUS would love nothing more than to “adopt” untrainable horses to people not equipped to deal with such animals, because the more people are injured and therefore become frightened of animals, the fewer people will want to keep animals, and HSUS, like all animal rights groups, is really about profiteering the extinction of domestic animals.

  6. The BLM headed by Neal Kornze IS the problem…NOT the solution. They have horribly mismanaged the wild horse and burro populations and really have no plan at all…except to round them up, pen them up…and then destroy them. George Knapp of the News 8, I -Team has been following and reporting on this for two years…I highly recommend the more than twenty reports. The Humane Society press release is spot on. One need only to look at the other instances of total mismanagement and out of control persecution of ranchers like the Wayne Hage family to know the BLM couldn’t find their butts with both hands.

  7. Oh and by the way…I’ll take horse huggers over foolish, lazy, devious and ignorant federal bureaucrats any old day…

  8. Steve says:

    Wasn’t one option for the BLM to adopt them out?
    Didn’t Madeline Pickens offer (with real knowledge and real outlay) to take ALL of them?

    Government masters simply will not relinquish any of the (unconstitutional) control they have obtained over the last 60 years.

    Thanks for the link to that story Brien.

    But (from the WTF department) consider, the real indigenous species is not the horse. It’s the big horn sheep.

  9. Patrick says:

    Again Thomas your concern for another of our animal friends would be heartwarming if I didn’t believe you are more concerned about Newmont Gold, you know, one of our “ranching families” as “doctor” Heck described them, being able to feed at the public trough by grazing their cattle on federal land.

    I said before, I’ll say it again, it’s tragic that the misdirection being used by multimillionaire (and some multibillionaires) who feint some “concern” about the horses and burros is gross. Let them worry about their own land.

  10. Bill says:

    My first horse was a Nevada mustang that my father bought from a rancher for 50 dollars. The rancher had captured the horse as in those days it was not only permitted but encouraged. The year was 1948 and I was 8 years old. It was a pretty good horse and would let me do just about anything but he wasn’t too friendly to strangers and we had to sell him after he kicked a neighbor and broke his arm.

    In those days, ranchers tended to treat the feral horse herds as assets. They were able to pursue and capture the horses and were able to sell them. either for riding or for commercial processing. Ranchers would often turn older excess horses loose to provide new blood to a particular band of horses since, they explained to me, that some bands can suffer from ears of inbreeding.

    The system seemed to work pretty good but hen, as so often happens, Washington stepped in to protect something that really didn’t need protection.

    So now we have starving horses, warehoused feral horses because they cannot be sold for animal or human consumption and must be kept warehoused in government pens at taxpayers expense.

    Meanwhile, because the excess animals cannot be harvested as a protein resource and their numbers keep growing while the forage and water supplies keep shrinking, the various parties, for different purposes, litigate every issue, Nothing gets solved. The lawyers get rich. Fund raisers harvest millions from an emotional issue and meantime costs to the taxpayer keep rising, horses continue breeding, resources keep shrinking and there is seemingly no end in sight.

    The mustangs roaming Nevada are not wild. They are not a native species. They are feral.

    Yet, it cannot be denied that the mustangs had a significant impact on the west, particularly for the American Indians. But, it is time to set emotion aside and look at the simple fact that the problem grows each day.

    So much harm has been done in the name of doing good.

  11. Comment from article cited by Mr. Mitchell…

    “ALL horses in the world evolved first in America and then migrated over the Aleutian land bridge (~12,000 years ago) into Asia and from there Africa and Europe. Scientists have discovered cave paintings (‘pictographs’) in North America dating back 12,000 years ago which depict many phenotypes of wild horses present on the continent at that time. Furthermore, geneticists have pulled horses from the permafrost in Alaska along side Mammoths) frozen thousands of years ago that are the genetic predecessors to domesticated horse lines, and the wild horses present in America today.
    Subsequently thousands of years later, additional horses (that had been domesticated in Europe and Asia) were re-introduced by European explorers to the American continent.
    I suggest that before publishing an article like this, it gets vetted for factual accuracy… we have more than enough ignorance in circulation. Here is an article with scientific cites that supports my comments here:

    Sincerely, William E. Simpson – Wildhorse Ranch

  12. Another comment from article cited by Mr. Mitchell…

    “Reader Comment (the only thing that I would add to this reader’s comment is that the 22 Million Acres that have been taken from our Wild Horses & Burros is a conservative estimate)

    The Big Lie of “overpopulation” is 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.

    In fact, horses are a slow-growth species when it comes to reproduction. The gestation-period lasts over 11
    months, and a mare produces just 1 foal. While an independent study of BLM’s records did confirm a nearly 20% birth rate, that study also found that 50% of foals perish before their first birthday. Thus, the effective increase in population from new foals is just 10%. However, adult mortality must also be taken into consideration. Adult mustangs succumb at a rate of at least 5% a year. So, what is a normal herd-growth rate? Around 5%, probably less. Thus, a herd could not double in 4 or 5 years, debunking another BLM falsehood. But BLM stealthily inserts herd-growth rates far higher than 20% in its reports –biologically-impossible herd-growth rates. For instance, in Wyoming, BLM declared that the Salt Wells Creek herd grew from 29 horses to 616 horses in 6 months (yes, months), a 2,024% increase. BLM’s “data” is chock-full of preposterous growth-estimates. So, when you hear talk of how the wild horses are reproducing “exponentially,” that’s a sure sign that BLM has falsified the data. You should also know that the National Academy of Sciences was required by the terms of its grant to draw conclusions per BLM’s figures –the falsified figures. The NAS was not allowed to collect data independently.
    Thus, BLM wired the results to confirm its lies.

    Wild horses are underpopulated. Per the guidelines of BLM’s own geneticist, more than 80% 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. So being “over AML” is meaningless as well as misleading. But those low AMLs, combined with fraudulent, 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.

    PZP is a potent weapon in BLM’s arsenal –for its biological warfare against the wild horses. PZP is a registered
    pesticide. Its mechanism-of-action is to cause auto-immune disease — tricking the immune system into producing antibodies that target and attack the ovaries. The antibodies cause ovarian dystrophy, oophoritis (inflammation of the ovaries), ovarian cysts, destruction of oocytes in growing follicles, and depletion of resting follicles. The mare’s estrogen-levels drop markedly as PZP destroys her ovaries. Ultimately, PZP sterilizes her. A recent study — which included the McCullough Peaks herd — found that PZP extends the birthing
    season to nearly year-round. Out-of-season births put the life of the foals and the mares at risk. Worse yet, radioimmunoassay tests indicated that PZP antibodies are transferred from mother to female offspring via the placenta and milk.

    As for the wild horses held in captivity, they are the “legacy” of former Secretary Salazar’s equid cleansing
    era, during which he had tens of thousands of wild horses removed from the range. However, the mortality rate of captive wild horses 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 was bogus — it was just another Lie. But that Lie has ballooned. BLM has taken the $1 billion figure that it originally announced, multiplied it by 230%, and then multiplied that number by another 200%, amplifying the fraud. When BLM lies, it lies Big.

    The Wild Horse and Burro program, if administered per the minimum-feasible management-model specified by Law, would not cost much at all. BLM does not lack for resources. There are 22 million acres of legally-designated wild-horse herd areas — which BLM previously tooaway for political expediency — that can be reopened as habitat. The horses now held captive can be released to those areas, where the cost of their upkeep will be $0.

    Contrary to BLM’s disinformation campaign, wild horses do have natural predators — mountain lions, bears, wolves, and coyotes. But those predators are persecuted mercilessly. The government exterminates what the hunters don’t shoot. However, the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros — Wild Horse Annie’s foundation –notes that even without predators, their wild-horse herds self-regulate their numbers, with population-growth in the single digits.

    Finally, adoptions 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 whose home is on the range. Louie Cocroft, International Society for Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB)

  13. One last comment from article cited above by Mr. Mitchell…

    “From Karen Sussman, president International Society for Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB)

    As you know, I have been in the wild horse movement for nearly thirty years now. Our organization has accomplished so much in our past 50 years. Our reputation is impeccable, not only with the BLM but with all the wild horse and burro groups and conservation groups in the U.S. Over the years, we have united more humane and wild horse groups than any other organization.

    ISPMB has a critical need to maintain our Wild Horse Conservation program. In 1999, ISPMB took a great leap creating a new paradigm in preservation and protection of America’s wild horses by creating this conservation program. We are the only organization in the U.S. to manage entire herds of wild horses gaining eleven years of data now.

    We were fortunate as our first two herds had not been disrupted, rounded up, etc. in decades of time. These two herds are the most natural behavioral healthy herds in the U.S. Our third herd came in late in the year of 2004. It was this herd that created an eye opening experience as to the effect of multiple round ups of horses and the devastating effects on the herd.

    We know that there are only two other herds besides our two healthy herds existing on public lands whose band structures have not been disrupted through gathers. They are the Montgomery Pass horses in CA and the Cerbats in AZ. Both herds have sufficient mountain lion predation that their numbers remain stable.

    There are very few behavioral studies in the U.S. We are the only ones that have ongoing studies now for eleven years. I’m sure it is no surprise to you that BLM does not have data or even a solid management program for wild horses and burros in our country.

    Our Conservation program has one of the greatest opportunities to save our wild horses on public lands. Here is what we are finding:

    Because of BLM’s lack of knowledge in managing wild horses, they have created a doubling of the fertility rates in 197 herds by their removal methods.

    BLM’s removal methods have destroyed the horses social structures which resulted in a severe lack of modeling to younger horses by the older and wiser horses. This has happened by younger and younger stallions taking over the harem bands. The best analogy is that the Harvard professors are no longer in charge of the harems which have given way to younger stallions who are the equivalent of grade school children.
    We have the answer as to why the fertility rates have doubled in the past 15 years.

    We also believe that the future of the herds on public land are at great risk for survival over the long term because of the breakdown in their educational system through the destruction of their social harems.
    Finally, we will share our “model management” program with the BLM. Most of the programs that BLM have are from ISPMB.

    We believe our Conservation model has the greatest advantage now to save wild horses on public lands, more so than any other means currently in place from law suits to public protests. We believe that if we can work together, we can truly solve the wild horse dilemma once and for all.”

  14. So to summarize…the wild horses and burros are NOT feral. And the reason we are still struggling with this “problem” is because of the ineffective and incompetent mismanagement of these animals by the federal government…through the BLM!

  15. Patrick says:

    The BLM operates as nothing but the political arm of “our family ranchers and miners” aka “Newmont Gold” when it comes to these horses.

    The “family ranchers” object that the horses are eating “their” rangeland (even though the horses on on federal land and the ranchers are there only by grace) and so the ranchers get the BLM to round up these horses, so they can be housed (and exterminated) so “our ranching families” can feed their cows on government cheese.

    Amazing that free marketers seem to have no problem with foreign companies, like Newmont, stealing Gold, and now even direct American tax dollars, and want to condemn the poor old American Mustang to “protein markets”

    Geesh that gross.

  16. iShrug says:

    Thank you for applying facts and a rational perspective to this issue. All normal people feel compassion towards animals, and nobody wants these feral horses to suffer.

    Where my mother lives, on a small island off the New Jersey coast, there was a growing feral cat population. People naturally wanted to feed the cats and many kittens, and set food out for them. However, once the summer people leave the island, much of this food source disappears. People and groups organized to capture the cats, and some of the kittens were adoptable. Older kittens and adult cats are feral, hence unadoptable. They are neutered/spayed and given immunizations for rabies, treated for disease, and returned to the island. I heard this is helping the situation, and will verify this with my mother.

    It seems that people who do this work are the genuine animal lovers.

  17. Rincon says:

    Interesting comments, HFB, but some seem, to my rather uninformed eyes, to lie outside the bounds of what’s commonly accepted. Can you steer me to more of this information?

  18. Steve says:

    iShrug (John?) catch, spay/neuter and release is a good thing. IT worked in my neighborhood because the feral cats, not only keep away mice and rats, they also keep other feral cats away.
    We do have some bad with the good, cats get into boats and other things kept outdoors and covered. And they will try to get in your house through dog doors if your dog doesn’t do anything to keep them away.
    And house cats won’t stop them getting in through cat doors.
    They will eat all the housecat food they find.

  19. Here is a better link to the facebook page of William E. Simpson of the Wild Horse Ranch whose comments about horses being native to America I posted above:

  20. And here is the website for the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros:

  21. And Rincon…the other statements were from the comments section in the first article cited in the story by Mr. Mitchell above from the Elko Daily Free Press, and the comments section from an article in the Economist cited by one of the commenters Louie Cocroft.

  22. rincon says:

    Thanks for the sources, HFB. They lend a needed perspective. Ecologically, they don’t seem to differ greatly from the bison. While I’m still not so sure about some of the accusations against BLM, it seems that the chief problems being caused by these horses are the consumption of forage that could be consumed by cattle, etc. for profit, their unchecked stripping of the land due to a lack of predators or human management and of course, the unneeded suffering of the horses themselves..

    Harvesting them for consumption might be the best alternative, but is probably politically unworkable due to voter irrationality. Perhaps next best is sterilization, but the facts on this must be resolved first. As with many issues, it is difficult to distinguish truth from disinformation.

    Euthanasia has the disadvantage of being a perpetual money pit, andt may never occur due, once again, to the public’s inability to accept death of animals of a species thought of as a companion animal. The present situation, while the worst alternative, has the advantage of allowing inaction, while still providing a convenient scapegoat in the form of BLM.

  23. Ecologically the mustangs and burros are superior to cattle as pointed out by Capt. Simpson. And as noted above by Steve…Madeline Pickens has offered to take ALL of the currently penned up mustangs and burros and will manage them on her property…all on her dime. The BLM refuses to let her do that. As noted by Karen Sussman…management of the mustangs and burros in the range is not as complicated as the BLM makes it out to be. In one of the video clips it shows how many times the Nevada BLM has changed management over the last ten or so years…and each new Manager states the same thing, we want to study the issue to see how best to proceed. They’ve studied this issue to death…and yet, have done nothing to solve it, except for setting road blocks in front of concerned groups and folks who HAVE studied this issue and have proposed the best ways to proceed.

  24. rincon says:

    Thank you again for the information. I visited and saw that they planned to open their sanctuary in 2011. Since I found nothing referring to any delays, i moved on. Searching more thoroughly, I have now discovered that BLM is holding them up regarding their need to move over public land between two privately owned portions of the sanctuary. Sounds like BLM needs the pressure of publicity. I’m surprised the media isn’t more interested in this story. I hope we’ll hear more once their obsession with covering horse races fades after the elections.

  25. rincon says:

    Hmmm…horse. races. No pun intended.

  26. Here are some of the details of the “road” controversy that the BLM is using to block the sanctuary.

  27. Patrick says:

    So, the BLM decided they were just going to slaughter 45,000 horses and burros.

    “Our ranching families”. (Aka a Newmont Gold” rejoiced at the thought of all that American taxpayer subsidized rangeland they were going to get access to, but the American Public (the ones that were told about it) decided otherwise.

    And I wonder Thomas, given the headline for this story, what conjuring you might come up with as appropriate for a story containing this bit of information:

    “…BLM experimented with invasive sterilization procedures on the wild horses, causing public outcry.

    One of the ways was restraining female horses while a veterinarian reaches into her vagina, makes an incision in the vaginal wall and manually twists and severs the ovaries with a tool with a chain on the end of it.”

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