Wild-Horse Overpopulation Is a Lie

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BLM’s Big Lie:  The “overpopulation” of wild horses is a concocted “crisis”.  The government doesn’t have a wild-horse problem — wild horses have a government problem.


Arbitrary management level (AML):  The maximum number of wild horses that BLM declares the Western range can sustain — 26,715 — is a political construct.  Per 49,349 square miles of wild-horse habitat, the upper bound of the AML establishes a maximum stocking density of 1 wild horse per 2 square miles!  However, BLM manages down to the low bound of the AML — 16,310.  That creates a stocking density of 1 wild horse per 3 square miles!


Sparsely populated, widely dispersed:  Many herds are restricted even more severely.  Here are stocking densities to which BLM restricts herds in Nevada.


1 wild horse per  3,102  acres  — 5    square miles  —  Antelope Complex

1 wild horse per  3,566  acres  — 5½ square miles  —  Triple B Complex

1 wild horse per  6,606  acres  — 10  square miles  —  Eagle herd

1 wild horse per  9,591  acres  — 15  square miles  —  Silver King herd


Contrast with livestock density:  BLM allows 1 cow-with-calf pair (or 5 sheep) per 76 acres, which means 8 cow-calf pairs (or 40 sheep) per square mile.  Further, within dedicated wild-horse habitats, livestock are awarded most of the grazing slots (AUMs).  Examples from Nevada:

94% of AUMs to livestock — Triple B Complex

96% of AUMs to livestock — Antelope Complex

Normative annual herd-growth = at most, 5%:  Gregg, LeBlanc, and Johnston (2014) found the average birth rate among wild-horse herds to be about 20%; but 50% of foals perish.  The population-gain from surviving foals (10%) minus a conservative estimate of adult-mortality (5%) equals a normative herd-growth rate of 5%.

Fraudulent figures on the range:  BLM’s herd-growth figures are falsified.  Repeatedly, we find BLM reporting one-year increases that are beyond what is biologically possible.  Some examples from Nevada:

260%  —     52 times the norm — Shawave Mountains

293%  —     59 times the norm — Diamond Hills South

418%  —     84 times the norm — Black Rock Range East *

*  BLM claimed the Black Rock Range East’s population grew from 88 horses to 456 horses in one year, an increase of 368.  If so, to overcome foal-mortality (50%) and adult-mortality (at least 5%), that would mean each filly and mare gave birth to 17 foals.

Fraudulent figures off the range:  A comprehensive report was recently issued following a 5-year investigation by Wild Horse Freedom Federation.  It revealed that BLM has been publishing fictitious figures regarding the number of wild horses removed from the range and now supposedly boarded in private pastures.  BLM is paying, but where are the horses?  http://wildhorsefreedomfederation.org/white-paper/

No to birth control, no to euthanasia, no to slaughter:  The population-explosion exists only on BLM’s falsified spreadsheets.

Marybeth  Devlin


  1. It’s so refreshing to finally read an article from an editor who is speaking the truth!! And obviously has done her “homework”.

    Thank you!!!

  2. The wild horses must be restored to viable population numbers not further victimized! Thank you for exposing the real injustice that is going on!

  3. Maggie Frazier says:

    Perhaps, just perhaps, if the “mainstream media” actually researched & studied the FACTS as Ms. Devlin has – the truth of what is being done to OUR wild horses & burros by the BLM, the grazing allotment program, the “remove every natural resource while you can” mindset – the public, the actual owners of public lands & the wild horses & burros, could be shown the truth. Hopefully before it becomes too late! To continue to allow livestock to over-run public lands, and roundup (BLM) or slaughter any wild creature that lives there (as Wildlife Services does) is actually destroying natural habitat & the many species who make it their home. The BLM’s propaganda that these wild horses have a 20% increase with NO mortalities (?) should be beyond anyone’s belief!

  4. Matthew Toenies says:

    Maybe I’m missing something obvious, but can’t horse populations also grow vía immigration? If so, then the claim that the BLM figures are fraudulent could be based on a poor understanding of simple demographics.

    Regardless, as someone concerned about both animal welare and ecology, I think science tells a pretty clear story. Introduced horses in the West are behaving as many other invasive species do. In the absence of the predators, competitors, and other checks and balances that they evolved with, they are likely to impact native ecosystems severely. This in turn can threaten the welfare of the horses themselves.

    • Teri Nehrenz says:

      I think you’ve got our position vs. the horses turned around…WE are the invasive species. WE were introduced to the west; they were here long before US.

    • Marylaine Young says:

      When you follow the assertion that horses are not native vs others, you open up the conversation to what is native. It is without doubt that wild horses are native. If some had the status of feral that was lost decades/centuries ago as they found themselves back home in their native environment where they could bring out all of their natural wild instincts and live sustainable in the land that also evolved right along side of them. Survival of the fittest with no man deciding what traits is best, but mother nature doing that for them.
      Now, to the assertion that nonnative animals would over turn the balance, well evolutionarily speaking the argument that nonnative Elk and Bison, newcomers to N.America could be looked at as having done just that. When man first came here the reports were estimated at 60 million with only a handful of reports of wild horse sightings. So perhaps, these newcomers were what turned the balance for the Native Horse. But, today their numbers are under one million and managed at that. (Bison is too low).
      These lands have been evaluated by those who know the horse, including past BLM, and they are not in competition with other wildlife and have been shown to be beneficial to all even the flora. The only thing not IN Balance is the other interests. As soon as the Managers of Wild Horse and Burro start following the law of in Balance by first seeing the carrying capacity for horses, what they need to be fully sustainable with 10 year growth estimates along with existing other wildlife, than and only then if there is extra resources to share with “other” than other can be included.

  5. Matthew Toenies says:

    I fully acknowledge that humans are an invasive species, and also are responsible for practically every other invasive. And that’s exactly why I, and so many others who care about animals/the environment, think it’s humans’ responsibility to try to fix the problems we’ve made, including the problems caused by introducing horses.

    Also, modern humans were actually here before the ancestors of feral horses in the West. They would have to be, since modern humans are the ones who brought them here. But I don’t think any of that really matters. For me, the bottom line is that humans created the problem, and humans have a responsibility to fix it, for the good of both the horses and the ecosystems they’re impacting.

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