Someone needs to commit to realistic wild horse population control

Twenty Republican members of Congress, including Nevada’s Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei, sent a letter earlier this month to Neil Kornze, the director of the Bureau of Land Management, asking him to provide suggestions for how to rein in the exploding wild horse population in the West, which is damaging water resources, overgrazing the range and jeopardizing their own health, as well as that of other wildlife and the livelihoods of ranchers.

The letter notes that almost half of the 100,000 horses under BLM management are located in holding facilities at a cost of $50,000 over the lifetime of each captive horse and that adoptions of wild horses have fallen 70 percent in the past decade. Currently more than 60 percent of the BLM’s $70 million annual budget for managing wild horses and burros is consumed by warehousing the animals.

When Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 there were about 25,000 wild horses and burros on the range, but since then the number of animals on public lands has more than doubled to 58,150 — 9,000 of those were born in the past year alone. Half of these free roaming feral horses are in Nevada.

“We believe it is clear that the current management strategy of wild horses and burros has proven ineffective,” the letter says. “Wildfire, drought, and invasive species exacerbate poor range conditions caused by overstocked HMAs (herd management areas). Across 10 western states where the BLM manages wild horses and burros, every state exceeds AML (appropriate management level). In some cases, like Arizona, there are HMAs that surpass the agency-determined AML by more than 9 times the allowable herd size. We understand long-term fertility control methods take time to develop, and once implemented will maintain horse populations at more appropriate levels. In the interim, however, steps must be taken to decrease herd sizes to allow rangeland recovery and effective management of future populations.”

The letter does not pretend to lay the entire blame for the current situation on the managers of the BLM, and asks guilelessly what congressional action could be taken to give the agency the flexibility it needs to accomplish herd management.

The letter discusses fertilization suppression efforts at length.

In fact, this past summer the BLM announced it would initiate 21 research projects with a goal of maintaining a sustainable population of wild horses and burros at a cost of $11 million. The BLM says it plans to spend that money on university and U.S. Geological Survey scientists, primarily to develop longer lasting fertility-control vaccines, as well as efficient methods for spaying and neutering wild horses.

That could be the long-term solution, but the four-page congressional letter hints at one point at what is really the best and cheapest short-term solution, asking rhetorically whether “humane euthanasia” might be among the population control methods.

That 1971 wild horse law specifically states, “The Secretary (of Interior) shall cause additional excess wild free roaming horses and burros for which an adoption demand by qualified individuals does not exist to be destroyed in the most humane and cost efficient manner possible.”

But budgets since 2009 has stipulated that no funds are to used “for the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros …”

Of course, any hint at the necessity to slaughter these beautiful — though too often emaciated and crippled due to overgrazing and brutal combat between the studs for the mares healthy enough to breed — animals results in apoplectic outrage and threats of litigation from self-styled, but wrongheaded animal lovers.

But that is the only workable solution that will allow contraceptive efforts to work in the long- run. — TM


  1. Maggie Frazier says:

    Could it possibly be that this group of politicians has an agenda? There have been many attempts to eradicate the wild horses & burros on OUR public land! These same politicians might possibly want much of the public land turned over to the state! They could then obviously do whatever they wanted to wildlife – which the wild horses & burros ARE! Yes, the BLM’s so-called “management” policy is going in the wrong direction BUT since there are 25-30 head of livestock (cows) to every single one of the wild horses – certainly seems quite possible the damage isnt from a small group of wild horses & burros – anymore than the damage thats being done to the range. Maybe read up on some research done by someone other than ranchers & county politicians!

    • Kathy Rote says:

      Oh you bet your booties they have an agenda and have been working on it steadily for some time now. Make it ok to send mustangs to slaughter – or perhaps use their numbers in holding pens to justify setting up US slaughterhouses – pontificating about how that would be so much more humane. Wouldn’t surprise me if a number of these good old boys already have private financial gain plans set up so they make a pretty penny off the mustangs – while rhapsodizing about all the minimum wage jobs they’ve created. Hope they each choke on their filet mignons.

  2. grandma gregg says:

    This article is pure anti-wild horse and burro propaganda – and full of lies. These kinds of “persuasive” media stories (TV/movie/written/online) are a method of opening the subject of mass euthanasia to the general public to eventually get the public support (or numbness) for these actions. It is a method of herding the public toward their disgusting preferred alternative which is complete destruction of all wild horses and burros both on the range and those already captured.

    • Janet Curtis says:

      this overpop and destruction of habitat is such a HUGE LIE we know how they oted and its just plain uneducated and sickening never vote for ppl this biologically STUPID!!! slam them call them tell them there are a few hundred left on the range and they r going to genocide our firepreventors our habitat restorers!!!! what a crock they believe this at all a moratorium is needed and returning them to their land. IF CONGRESS hasnt sold it all!!! overpopulation of idiots in control of murder and illegal treatment of severe abuse!!!! fbi wants evidence of abuse? send it to them now we have a ton of it that thesesstupid liars must see!!! how long can they lie like this!

  3. Susan Humphrey says:

    The whole horse program under the management of the BLM is a mess. The horses on the ranges need to be brought down to the AML…they are cause permanent damage to the range, and some of the HMA horses are in very poor condition, such as was shown when the Cold Creek Nevada horses were emergency gathered.
    I think the biggest problem has been that Congress won’t stand up to the wild horse activists…I won’t call them advocates, because you have to really care about the horses to be an advocate. What has been happening with horses dying of starvation and dehydration is not being an advocate for horses.
    Real wild horse advocates promote contraception on the range, including spaying and they promote adoptions. Activist promote people to DONATE to their cause so they can bring costly litigation…and in the meantime the horses themselves have suffered. Many of the activist are against any management of the horses whatsoever, including birth control.
    I would like to see all young horses in holding facilities in training programs. I don’t understand why we have horses there that have been there for years…young horses…and we have only been paying for board. We would have been much better off financially to have paid a professional trainer to have that horse riding…people want riding horses…than to have a horse eating have @ $5 a day for 3-4 years…that is a waste of my money!
    The older horses could be evaluated by professionals (I’m a professional horse trainer) to see if they are likely to be trained or not. If they aren’t… put notices out that the horses are going to be destroyed if they aren’t adopted…then do it. As long as there is plenty of notice to the public that the horses need to find private homes, the public has the responsibility to decide if they want to finance the horses…or not. I don’t want to so I won’t be doing it.
    I don’t have any problem financing the horses…at AML…on the range. I don’t have any problem hiring professional trainers to train the younger horses that no one wants to adopt right away to give the excess horses every chance to get adopted. I have a BIG PROBLEM with warehousing excess horses…50,000 horses…that is ridiculous!

    • J. Merrick says:

      Do you not have a problem with the hundreds of thousands of cattle grazing on our public lands destroying them? The ratio of cattle to horses in Utah alone is 10.6:1 The cattle do more damage to the land than the wild horses! Why do the anti-wild horse people always leave out these facts? Perhaps because they don’t fit with your argument.

      • Amen the republicans are not even close. The cattle need to be gotten off our public lands. There is no overpopulation of horses just greedy politicians and welfare ranchers.

      • Denise Smith says:

        I totally agree. The plan is to have cattle on the wild mustangs homes. Talk about ruining an ecosystem. Cattle destroy the land. People who raise cattle truck them to places to eat, you know why? They ruined their own feeding area with the cattle on their land.

    • I live in England – thank god !
      These animals are part of what would have drawn me to the area

      No horses

      No visitors

      At the moment NOTHING would induce me to visit your corrupt country
      They kill anything that moves
      So much destruction
      So much sadness

  4. Lisa LeBlanc says:

    Faith: Belief without proof.
    Each and every declaration made by wild equine detractors and the agencies responsible for ‘managing’ these animals is based on data executed to produce a foregone conclusion. Or the ever-popular “estimate”.
    I will capitulate that during this long, severe drought, wildlife is struggling for survival. But I will not accept that, while deer, pronghorn, elk and apex predator populations are dropping because of the drought, wild equines continue to breed out of control. I will not acquiesce that these populations exist simply because the Feds say so. I will not be convinced that this latest ‘estimate’ regarding some mythical mathematical formula only the Feds and Public lands lease holders understand can account for this ridiculous explosion in on-the-range populations.
    SHOW ME the proof. Not your mealy mouthed belief. Not a computer generated possibility; not a digital report to Appropriations. But the visual results of a boots-on-the-ground actual management of these animals on the areas they occupy.
    You can’t; those kinds of reports don’t exist. That kind of management isn’t funded, which would be the logical step BEFORE making a preposterous assumption about the prodigious birth rates so often touted by these agencies. The Wild Horse and Burro Program generally boils down to ONE theoretical ‘specialist’ working for a field office.
    The real money lies not in managing them on the range, but the removals and warehousing. And again, regarding holding facilities, we’re expected to be content with reports of those in holding…as if none die, or find their way out the back door in the dead of night. Too many incidents of corruption, too many questionable occurrences and way too much bad math. Because some of us who care about these animals read those reports and keep tabs, and those reports often don’t balance with the public declarations.
    On the range, they cost the taxpayer nothing. and they harm no one.
    People who advocate for wild equines go out of their way to observe them, photograph them and count them where they find them. We do more to add to the knowledge of these animals than the obligated agencies and we do it on our own dime. We have to: when push comes to shove, we absolutely have to show proof of what we’re talking about.
    I cannot understand why people seem to accept this drivel out of hand; I suppose that, as long as both wild and captive population ‘estimates’ continue to raise the ire of the right kind of stakeholders, the facts surrounding wild horses and burros will always be couched to appease the lowest common denominator.
    Seems odd, doesn’t it, that we’re expected to take the word of those agencies on ‘faith’ – belief without proof.

    • Maggie Frazier says:

      The fact that no pro-cattle or BLM person ever even remarks upon the fact that there have been and probably still are, wild horses being sold out the back door of these long term & short term holding areas is a bit strange. They must be capable of reading the same kind of articles the rest of us do – mainly the investigation of the BLM for Tom Davis’s rip off of the American taxpayer and the slaughter sale of 1700 wild horses – why is that? That’s not just a few advocates telling lies! The idea that its ok to spay a wild horse in the field? How many veterinarians ARE ok with that? As to the Cold Creek herd – the local wild horse advocates had been waiting for the BLM to “research” the idea of contraceptives! Guess what – they researched for 3 years – by then yes, the horses were starving! Some advocates do encourage contraceptives – even though most, if not all, herds are already genetically unviable – AML or not. They are trying to come to some sort of agreement with the BLM – when obviously – the BLM is controlled by the livestock corporations that use & abuse our public lands

  5. grandma gregg says:

    Did a quick check on this Susan Humphrey and found this (Shane Destry comment about her):
    “It is irrelevant what Susan Humphrey, a long time disciple of Sue Wallis and promoter of horse slaughter considers who should be managing public lands and wild horses.”

  6. Modern digital mapping technology exists, where trained professionals fly over massive areas of land and count anything in extreme detail – down to the numbers sage grouse feathers in an area. The BLM can get accurate counts of all wild horses throughout the west. They don’t want accurate counts.

    Those who want the wild horse “zeroed out” often claim that the horse has no natural predators. Really? Stop the slaughter of coyotes and wolves, and the hunting of mountain lions and bears (yes, a bear can kill a young, sick, old or lame horse), and wild horse populations would “normal out.” Not starve and dehydrate. Nature is good at what it does.

    Around 2-3% of all cows consumed in the US – those that currently ruminate 12 hours per day, mucking and fouling public lands grasses and water supplies – could be “grass fed” on private ranches, but public land is cheaper. ($1.35/cow/month grazing fees, plus their eat-for-free calves)

    About 8.3 million cows grazed public lands in 2014. Maybe. The government lost count.

    Interesting article on land degradation from livestock grazing:
    (or just google )

    Everyone knows that predator myths and ranching secrets and government lies are about money. Our government must stop spending OUR money on caging and trying to adopt-out thousands of wild horses.

    Those horses will NEVER again be wild. Let those that are still wild, stay wild.

    • Lisa LeBlanc says:

      A few years ago, while studying an environmental assessment to remove wild horses from a particular area in N. Nevada, I came upon an environmental assessment for a grazing allotment in precisely the same area, from a year before.
      One of the chapters in the grazing lease assessment cited a small black bear presence in the area that had been observed taking foals. But there was no mention of that black bear presence – that had been observed taking foals – in the assessment for removing horses.
      Now why would the same agency, same field office responsible for both a decade-long grazing lease and million dollar roundup not mention a predator population regarding that roundup?
      A few years ago, in a N. California HMA, evidence of cougar predation of foals was catalogued by an individual in nearly every family band followed. Yet the population ‘estimated’ the following year showed a staggering foal increase, despite the many infants lost the year before, and during Year 3 of the drought.
      There is no balancing these books; there is only the assurance of data invented to paint these animals in the darkest light possible.

      • Kathleen Hayden says:

        Thank you Lisa. Ca. State Parks had an agenda to remove So.Ca. last herd of wild horses in Coyote Canyon, on the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. They hired UC Davis to study the herd expecting to find significant and negative impacts on the Penninsula Bighorn Sheep. Lo and behold all they could find was horsehair in mountain lion scat, and no impact on the water or forage resources. None the less the last of the herd was removed because Parks had a published agenda to remove the herd as non native, even as equis fossil finds were uncovered in the canyon.

  7. 2014 grazing receipts of $17.1 million dollars for both Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and US Forest Service (USFS) grazing permittees translate to 2.1 million cattle. That was the number on 251 million acres of public land managed for grazing by both agencies compared to 56,656 WHB last year. That’s a ratio of 37 cattle for every wild horse.

    A side-by-side analysis of that and other BLM and USFS-sourced data is available at

  8. Thomas Mitchell, You’re a moron.

  9. Sue carter says:

    Btw, Bundy’s cattle are still running wild.

  10. Alicia Matos says:

    I been trying find if anything has been taking place as how to rescue this beautiful creatures. I looked up the Bill that was placed in 1971 and it say, ‘It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands. Has anybody taken any legal action against BLM?

  11. Pathetic. Can the pro-“wild” horse activists ever support their argument without mentioning cattle? You sound like spoiled children; “they have one and I want it too……wahhhh” .

    How many of you are from the city and have never seen a starving mustang?

    • Janelle Ghiorso says:

      Who’s the spoiled child? The advocates mention cattle because of the exponential numbers of cattle that spoiled cattlemen run on our public lands. They mention the cattle because the cattlemen are the ones advocating the destruction of the wild equines! The cattlemen have the BLM advocating for them.
      Horse advocates don’t all live in the cities. I live in the country and have not seen starving horses. Plenty of healthy ones though. Don’t even think for a minute that horse advocates aren’t horse owners too. How many horse owners live in cities?
      So, really who’s spoiled? Who wants it all for themselves? The answer is clear as day.

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