Wild Horse Advocates Ask BLM to Keep Domestic Horses Clear of Native Mustangs

Story by Scott Sonner , contributing input by Josh Loftin appearing in multiple sources

Equine Herpes Could Wipe Out the Last Herds Not Yet Destroyed by BLM

Photo courtesy of Terry Fitch

Concerned about the threat of a catastrophic outbreak of a herpes virus among wild horse herds in the West, national animal advocates on Thursday called on the federal government to keep potentially infected domestic horses away from mustangs and burros on public lands.

The Humane Society of the United States urged the Bureau of Land Management to “discourage and, if possible and appropriate, prohibit” owners of private horses from bringing animals at risk of Equine Herpes Virus-1 onto federal lands where they could have contact with wild horses.

“The potential for a catastrophic outbreak of EHV-1 among wild horse herds needs to be addressed by the BLM on an emergency basis,” Holly Hazard, the society’s chief innovations officer, wrote in a letter to BLM Director Bob Abbey.

The federal agency should launch a public education campaign immediately about the highly contagious disease, which has infected dozens of horses and killed at least nine, as officials plan horse-related activities for the upcoming holiday weekend, she said.

EHV-1 poses no risk to humans, but can be fatal to horses. It can be airborne and transmitted by touch or by sharing feed, brushes, bits and other equipment.

The virus “is a highly transmittable disease, and the symptoms don’t show up immediately,” Hazard told The Associated Press.

“You can have a horse that may have been exposed and you are not even aware they are carrying the virus. The most vigilant thing for everybody to do is enjoy their horses on their own property until the health officials have it sorted all out,” she said.

Traced back to a cutting horse competition earlier this month in Ogden, Utah, the virus has been exposed to more than 1,000 animals through direct or indirect contact with infected horses. Symptoms include fever, decreased coordination, nasal discharge, loss of tail tone, hind limb weakness and inability to rise.

So far, no animals managed by the BLM are known to have been infected, BLM spokesman Tom Gorey said Thursday. He said the agency is considering limiting horse movement on a case-by-case basis and may cancel some scheduled adoption events.

The federal agency “has been working with state and federal animal health officials to help protect the health and well-being of wild horses and burros on the range, along with those in BLM holding facilities,” Gorey said.

Horse owners should contact local BLM offices to see if there are any restrictions before bringing domestic horses onto federally managed public lands.

Tom Collins, a Clark County commissioner who owns horses and runs a cattle ranch outside of Las Vegas, said he felt the federal agency generally was taking the proper precautions but that prohibiting domestic horses on public lands in some areas was going too far.

“To tell people not to ride in areas that are public lands because of this horse virus, in my opinion, is a probably a little over cautious,” Collins told AP. “It’s probably more of a reaction to a request by the horse lovers than common sense. But at the same time, I can see their point, because it is airborne.”

Since the virus was discovered, organizers of horse sales, rodeos and other competitions involving the animals have canceled or postponed events in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Washington. But some other major events are continuing as scheduled, including the College National Finals Rodeo June 11-18 in Casper, Wyo., and the Reno Rodeo June 16-25, billed as the fourth-richest rodeo on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

Animal health officials in Utah and Nevada are among those who are optimistic the worst of the outbreak already has run its course.

“There’s not really anything earth-shaking that’s happened to change what we’re thinking,” Dr. Bruce King, Utah’s state veterinarian, said. “If we can get through the end of the month … we will feel comfortable about holding equine events again.”

But groups including the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign have joined the call for “an abundance of caution … because of the potential catastrophic consequences that could occur if the virus spreads to the wild horse herds.”

“Given the serious nature of the virus and the already diminished population of mustangs in the west, the BLM needs to act quickly to ensure that the virus does not spread,” campaign spokeswoman Deniz Bolbol said.

Hazard said there are a number of ways a wild horse could contract the disease even if it didn’t have direct contact with an infected animal. For example, domestic horse owners are permitted to have hay on the ground for their horses at campgrounds on BLM lands, national forests and other U.S. lands, she said.

If an infected domestic horse ate that hay, mustangs that frequent campgrounds and other equine recreational areas may move in to eat the contaminated hay leftovers and be exposed to the disease, Hazard said.

“Since EHV-1 infections can be fatal,” she said, “should such a scenario occur, the impacts on wild horse populations could be disastrous.”

30 comments on “Wild Horse Advocates Ask BLM to Keep Domestic Horses Clear of Native Mustangs

  1. ‘The federal agency “has been working with state and federal animal health officials to help protect the health and well-being of wild horses and burros on the range, along with those in BLM holding facilities,” Gorey said.’

    Just exactly when did the BLM become the least bit concerned about the health and well being of our wild equines? I cannot recall seeing any evidence other than lip service to the press of any such concern. BLM and the actions of the contractors they hire show the lie in Gorey’s words. Again.

    Reasonable precautions are in order but cases of EHV have always been around and it appears to me this whole thing is being purposely overblown by someone and most everybody is jumping on the bandwagon. Why? Who is behind it? No matter who or why, if the BLM detects any in herds on the range or in their prisons it cannot be put past them to use that as an excuse to start putting down any infected ones and any that might be infected now or in the future, you know, just to be on the safe side.

    Yes, I am cynical and no I do not have any trust at all in the BLM to do the right thing with our horses or burros.

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    • (The federal agency “has been working with state and federal animal health officials to help protect the health and well-being of wild horses and burros on the range, along with those in BLM holding facilities,” Gorey said.’)

      REALLY ! They couldn’t care less….they only care for less mustangs. Never trust these B _______rds

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    • I am so cynical , what if the BLM created it?????? Why is there no vaccine ???? Like no one seen it coming????????? I would put nothing past the BLM , nothing! These people never cared for horses at any stage of this entire scenario……….

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  2. Like I said on another thread….the biggest threats to our wild equines are the contractors and equipment and the unnatural, unchecked long term-holding of the wild equines in those concentration camps.

    BTW, don’t the contractors (round-ups and holding) use domestic horses in their work?

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    • They most certainly do, take the “Judas” horse for starters followed by the wranglers AND the Cattoors often transport both domestic and wild horses together.

      Sent from R.T.’s iPad

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      • Last I checked it was the live meat haulers that also do rodeos and other freelance work regarding hauling…like the segmented horse slaughter trade in the US; especially small independent haulers.

        Not a very sanitary crew and not convinced that any organization, be it DOI or PBRA or Cattoor & Company or NCRA require sterilization procedures anywhere in their contracts. I’m not sayin’ “cowboys” are dirty, but those in the end of life process for animals in North America sure are.

        Remember the investigative report that found trash haulers from trash/dump out of state locations were bringing back full loads of foodstuffs for humans without cleaning?…and that was for HUMANS. Think of what happens and DOESN’T for animals…YIKES!

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  3. Could be the back door way for NAIS to rear it’s ugly head again. Gotta watch these government people and their agencies. Am I being too harsh? I don’t think so.

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    • Yes, this was what originally drew me into the fight and remember, it was only a few years ago and the same BLM people who are telling you that they love mustangs are the same ones that were going to KILL them then…I might be old, but like a horse, I never forget who my enemies are and what they have done. The BLM lies.

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      • Not trying to be a wet-blanket….BUT, the official health and welfare report from the responder (Bolstead?) to Debbie Coffey was what?…and the number of alive and well equines is what? I don’t need a mailing address.

        Just love how they keep playing the numbers game with the concerned US taxpaying citizens and humanitarians around the world.

        Would love to see that follow-up from Mr. Speedy-reply-via-email with some reasonable quantifiable data.

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  4. Don’t Give BLM any more ideas on disease transmission. A little knowledge is very dangerous. Remember the Bat problem? A bunch of hiker’s from U.K. had dirty shoes and guess what they brought a fungus that is destroying the bat population, which has an impact on bugs and other vector spreading critters. The right Thing the BLM did in this scene was close all caves to tourist, hikers and cave dweller alike until further notice. It will take a long time for them to recover, in the mean time we are swamped with biting insects. The same problem could happen to the mustangs, all it takes is a careless action just to make a huge impact which will ruin all our efforts to save them.

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  5. Our wild horses are located in isolated areas. They should be protected by a ban that incorporates their range and can be printed up in any District Office and given to all those inquiring about horse camping and trail riding near the HMAs. All the mobile BLM Rangers can also warn people who are bringing domestic horses onto BLM lands to stay away from resident wild bands.

    I think that would be sensible and easy to do.

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  6. This question was raised by me several days ago. I’m glad that others more established in the the wild horse community and more respected have taken up the same stance I first uttered.

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  7. Summer roundups, &, roundups period, should be called OFF, PERMANENTLY! What’s really too bad for ALL horses involved, is that there is no vaccine available to prevent the disease in the first place. Do you really think this is a planned way to destroy America’s mustangs?? Sort of like chemical warfare, against HELPLESS ANIMALS!!!!! The problem is that it’s affecting domestic horses right now, so this is a problem for ALL horses, whether wild or domestic. Can infected horses be treated & get better, if caught & treated soon enough? Or, is this an automatic death sentence?? If it’s not one thing, it’s another! There must be something we can do to help.

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  8. My last reply on this thread was to basically confirm R.T.’s response…there is never any real response from DOI/USDA (or the states that get them via migration on state lands)….I was just trying to point out that when it comes to true survivability, quality of life for the wild equines, truly scientific community data verified by non, -meat, -tree, -extractors, OR DOI is NEVER available in their roundup mentality.

    This has got to be one H*LL of a gravy train for the whackers!

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  9. IF they did succeed in their STAMPEDE TO OBLIVION (George Knapp’s documentary)….what would become of the Wild Horse and Burro program? Would it, become extinct also?

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  10. I just heard on my local news that the equine virus is spreading. USDA is aging that more than 75 horses have been infected and more than 2000 have been exposed to the virus, 11 have been put down and 61 stables in 9different states are under quarantine. The above figures come directly from KTVU channel 2 in Oakland CA.

    I think we should be hitting BLM with these stats. Do wranglers all come from the same ranch or all over to work a round up? If they come from all over the contractor can NOT guarantee safety for their privately owned animals.

    If horse X is I’ll today–how long before he gets a clean bill of health? And how can a vet be certain that the horse isn’t still shedding the disease in his poop? Could that animal spread the disease to a totally stressed animal this summer or fall?

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  11. Does anyone have any figures on the number of employees that are under the Wild Horse and Burro program? How many District Offices? How many Field Offices?
    It would seem that they would be well advised to listen to and work with the Advocates (I prefer the term CONCERNED CITIZENS).

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  12. Another Good group to contact:

    http://www.conquistadorprogram.org/blm__court_documents_on_wild_horses
    Phoenix, June 6, 2009).

    The Conquistador Program announced today that it has received material obtained under the Freedom of Information Act that indicates the Bureau of Land Management is continuing to plan for the euthanasia of a large number of wild horses now in long-term and short-term holding facilities across the United States and for direct sale authority for many more. Notes of conference calls extending from July 22, 2008 through September 23, 2008 by a six-member implementation team and a draft Alternative Management Plan document demonstrate that several options are being planned. Among the options are:

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    • Yep, I am posting an ‘objection’ to this favoring people on holiday over the precautions that should be in place here and made no exceptions to!! This is an invitation to disaster. It also plays favorites and shows a total disregard, as usual, to the wild horses here. I am hoping that the local advocates, who are very active with this HMA and these wild bands, will be out there to talk to horse people bringing horses in.

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