When I was at the August Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board Meeting in Riverton, Wyoming, I listened to the BLM present its plan for awarding ten million dollars in grants to study sterilization of wild horses. They plan to announce in January which proposals will be accepted, and award 1 million dollars to each proposal. The Advisory Board Members and BLM staff lamented that birth control doesn’t work so they need to keep studying – while also laughing about “well, we KNOW sterilization works!”
This is actually completely untrue, about birth control not working. There have been 30 years of studies proving that Native PZP, the one year drug used on mares does in fact work. Currently, Native PZP is being used very effectively to control populations of horses in the Pryor Mountains of Montana and in the McCullough Peaks Herd. The goal for the local BLM office and the groups working with them in both these areas is no more roundups. Manage the wild horses on the range where they belong. Do not add to the ridiculous number of 50,000+ wild horses in holding facilities and feed lots, but control the numbers in a way that will sustain numbers needed for maintaining genetic viability, be reversible, and is humane. It is also important not to use PZP on small herds that are way below the numbers necessary for maintaining genetic viability, like herds that have an AML of 40, 50 or 60 horses.
There is a terrific video by Dr. Alan Rutberg, PhD of Tufts University at the 2014 American Equine Summit in his aptly named talk called “Embracing Failure: Why the BLM will not use Fertility Control” http://www.equineadvocates.org/video.php?recordID=45
The bottom line is that it is hard. BLM does not want to use birth control because it takes time, money and resources. They would far rather pursue a permanent solution, sterilization, even if it is dangerous and cruel.
The studies that are being considered include gelding, chemical sterilization, chemical vasectomies, and spaying of mares. These inhumane, dangerous procedures would be done in the field.
All of these studies on the sterilization of stallions make no sense – unless you sterilize ALL the stallions in the herd, you are not doing an effective job at controlling the population because 1 stallion can breed and impregnate many mares. Instead, using birth control on the mares is what needs to be done.
Consider the Sand Wash Basin Herd in Colorado. Wendy Reynolds, the Field Manager of the Little Snake Field Office in Colorado has applied for a study of chemical vasectomies of stallions:
This is despite the fact that currently the BLM is currently using PZP-22 on the wild horses of Sand Wash Basin.
This ten million dollars should be spent in funding birth control programs using Native PZP on the range, studies of wild horses on the range, and range improvements.
If the BLM begins sterilizing horses on the range, this will be the beginning of their final solution for our wild horses – a solution that will bring about the zeroing out of our wild herds.