September 9, 2021
Hundreds of wild horses and burros are removed from their habitat by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service (FS) in an effort to manage increasing herd populations. Millions of dollars are spent executing these roundups and caring for the horses and burros in long-term holding facilities. A humane solution is available to decrease these populations through fertility control vaccines, but minimal funding is allotted for this program.
According to the BLM, wild horse and burro populations can double in size every 4-5 years. In March 2021, the BLM estimated 86,189 wild horses and burros were in the 177 herds they managed. When the herd size becomes unmanageable, controversial roundups occur. Helicopters are the primary tool used for these roundups. They hover over the ground and push the herds towards temporary enclosures. Once the herds are contained, they are evaluated and transported to long-term facilities or put up for adoption. Sadly, this method of roundup has resulted in horses sustaining injuries that require euthanasia.
According to several news articles, animal advocates are voicing their concerns as wild horses from the Sand Wash Basin in Colorado and the Onaqui Herd in Utah are removed. They are urging the BLM to end these mass roundups and focus on using more resources to implement fertility control programs. Since 2012, the BLM has given 5,748 mares a fertility-controlled vaccine out of the 55,911 horses gathered. Fertility control vaccines have proven to be effective if they can be readministered at the appropriate time. The Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) vaccine is commonly used but needs a booster after 12 months. Long-term studies detailing the effectiveness of PZP in large wild herds have not been documented, but the need for them is apparent by the number of horses and burros that the BLM and FS continually remove.
Two studies have shown the effectiveness of fertility control within small herds on Assateague Island and McCullough Peaks in Cody, Wyoming. The fertility control study of the iconic herd of Assateague Island began in 1988 by the National Park Service to help manage the wild horses on the island. This study would later become invaluable to others in revealing that fertility control vaccines can humanely manage herd populations. The herd in McCullough Peaks is another testament to the effectiveness of fertility control and the importance of working together to reach a common goal. The BLM partnered with the nonprofit advocacy group Friends of a Legacy. This joint effort is what the BLM attributes to the success of their program. Amazingly, they have reached “zero population growth.”
How can you help these sentient creatures stay free? Please contact your representative today to show your support for increased funds towards fertility control programs.