After days of speculation regarding the fate of 45,000 wild horses and burros currently housed in the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) off-range holding pens, the Bureau has responded to a recommendation made last week by its National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board.
According to a statement posted on their website, the BLM will not take the board’s suggestion to euthanize healthy horses or to sell them indiscriminately to potential slaughter buyers:
Question: What is the BLM’s response to the recommendation made by the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board on September 9, 2016, to sell without limitation or humanely euthanize excess horses and burros in BLM’s off-range corrals and pastures that are deemed “unadoptable”?
Answer: The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board is an independent panel comprised of members of the public that make recommendations to the Bureau of Land Management regarding its management of wild horses and burros. The BLM is committed to having healthy horses on healthy rangelands. We will continue to care for and seek good homes for animals that have been removed from the range. The BLM does not and will not euthanize healthy animals. The agency continues to seek new and better tools for managing the nation’s quickly expanding population of wild horses. There are nearly 70,000 wild horses and burros on public lands in the West — three times the recommended level — and nearly 50,000 additional horses and burros that have been removed from the range and are available for adoption. The cost of caring for each animal that goes unadopted can be nearly $50,000.
We encourage those who might be interested in adopting one of these incredible animals to call 1-866-4MUSTANGS.
The horses in question, which currently reside in holding pens and off-range pastures in 10 states, are considered “unadoptable” by the BLM due to their age (five years or older). Maintaining off-range herds cost the BLM $49 million in 2015, accounting for two-thirds of the budget designated to wild horses and burros.
The estimated 70,000 wild horses and burros still living on public lands in the west continue to reproduce at an alarming pace, with herd size doubling every four years. On paper, the BLM says it has supported proactive steps, such as contraceptive methods for wild horses, since the late 1970s, including hormone implants, chemical vasectomies, and intrauterine devices. All of these, the BLM says, “…were tried and later abandoned as ineffective or impractical at that time.”
Yet the BLM’s record and thus, its ability to research wild horse populations effectively or to make measurable strides in population control through contraception has been called into question in recent years. This is supported by a 2013 National Academy of Sciences report, which said that the agency:
“Has not used scientifically rigorous methods to estimate the population sizes of horses and burros, to model the effects of management actions on the animals, or to assess the availability and use of forage on rangelands…
Promising fertility-control methods are available to help limit this population growth, however. In addition, science-based methods exist for improving population estimates, predicting the effects of management practices in order to maintain genetically diverse, healthy populations, and estimating the productivity of rangelands. Greater transparency in how sciencebased methods are used to inform management decisions may help increase public confidence in the Wild Horse and Burro Program.”
In a statement to Fox News, a BLM spokeman noted that the Bureau has adopted out more than 235,000 wild horses and burros since 1971.