Wild horses are America’s traditional darling of film and folklore, but they are becoming a big problem for taxpayers.
Wild horses, according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), are eating themselves out of their habitat, and the adoption rates of the mustangs have hit the skids.
BLM director Neil Korzne said it’s time to admit the agency has a $1 billion crisis, according to CBS Reno.
“We’re trying to make an effort to be real clear about the challenges because they are significant. Part of it is a recognition on our part that we can’t solve this alone. We need partners coming to the table, whether it’s states or counties or others.”
The report states that the $1 billion estimate is what “will be needed to care for the 46,000 wild horses and burros currently in U.S. holding facilities over their lifetime. That doesn’t include the cost of future efforts to shrink the population of the record-67,000 now roaming public lands in 10 western states.”
Future Of Wild Horses Uncertain After BLM Admits $1 Billion Budget Crisis https://t.co/4o6uHBt5lv
— Anne Novak (@TheAnneNovak) May 13, 2016
Left unchecked, the wild horse population doubles every four years. While they are allowed to be removed, the mustangs are federally protected and must be treated humanely before and after capture.
Korzne called the problem a “double bind.”
“There’s a very real impact on the range when the herds are overpopulated, but it costs us $50,000 per horse if the horse lives out its whole life in holding. Every time BLM goes out and gathers 1,000 horses, we are talking about potentially a $50 million commitment on behalf of American taxpayers.”
The BLM made an attempt to solve the problem by administering a contraceptive drug, PZP, in an experimental program for horses in Nevada’s Pine Nut Mountains.
The program was halted due to protests by animal advocates, claiming that PZP would harm the horses, according to Capitol Press.
“While some groups advocate fertility control as a preferred alternative to government roundups, others say scientific research suggests PZP can have long-lasting physical, behavioral and social effects on wild horses. Among other things, they say mares that cannot get pregnant choose to leave their bands, creating instability that affects the health of the entire herd.”
— Expert On Horses (@ExpertOnHorses) May 6, 2016
Pricilla Feral, president of the Connecticut-based Friends of Animals which was instrumental in stopping the sterilization effort, said the group was happy with the results.
“We are extremely happy to have killed the pilot project and to put a stop to the forced drugging of Pine Nut mares with the fertility control pesticide PZP for a second time.”
U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks had ruled the BLM failed to conduct the necessary analysis required under the National Environmental Policy Act.
BLM maintains that the Pine Nut herd is seriously overpopulated, and they had planned to remove 300 mustangs from the bunch. Plans were scrapped due to the judge’s ruling.
— Freedom4Horses (@Freedom4Horses) March 17, 2016
The BLM turned to American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign — a coalition of more than 60 groups nationally. The organization began an effort to shoot darts into mares, administering the drug into horses who were wandering into local neighborhoods.
Deniz Bolbol, head of the preservation campaign, admitted that local residents had been instructed to stop darting the horses due to the legal action.
“This is a lawsuit filed by people sitting in an office in Connecticut against the folks in Nevada doing the hard work on the ground to keep wild horses free on the range. If this group wants to help wild horses they need to focus on the BLM’s current effort to conduct barbaric spaying of wild mares and the castration of stallions on the range rather than target this type of humane birth control.”
The BLM, meanwhile, continues its nationwide adoption campaign for wild horses. The numbers of horses being adopted are becoming fewer, however. This is due mainly to the expense and room required in keeping a horse. Korzne said the combined problems are creating a bigger burden for taxpayers.
“…Major shifts in the adoption market and the absence of a long-term fertility control drug have driven population levels higher. A number of program reforms are underway, but assistance is needed from our local, state, and federal partners.”
BLM horses will be available for adoption over the next few months at local stockyards.
May 13-14, NRS Arena, Decatur, Texas
May 20-21, Red Horse Ranch, Cassopolis, Michigan
May 20-21, CSU B.W. Pickett Equine Center, Fort Collins, Colorado
May 20-21, Meadowood Recreation Area, Lorton Virginia
May 20-21, June 4, Sheep Farm Road, Ewing Illinois
June 3-4, Hutchinson Correctional Facility, Hutchinson Kansas
June 7-21, Internet adoption
[Image via Sunsinger/Shutterstock]