“Tens of thousands of horses are roaming the state and there’s no where to put them…?”
A news report has circulated recently about a massive population of free-roaming horses currently destroying land in the Navajo Nation and in New Mexico. The report, by Deanna Sauceda, asserts “Tens of thousands of horses are roaming the state and there’s no where to put them.” Based on no pointed sources, it’s ‘estimated’ there are as many as 90,000 horses roaming the Navajo Nation’s lands:
“There are no hard numbers as to how many horses are wild, abandoned or feral in New Mexico, but some estimates are as high as 90,000 on the Navajo reservation alone.” – intimating that there are far more throughout the rest of the state.
And of course, the compassionate, “The problem is hard on both the land and the horses.”
Other expressions of crisis include “dire”, “critical”, and “tremendous impact”. And the New Mexico Department of Agriculture has been called upon to deal with the problem, forming a ’task force’ joined by ‘horse advocates‘, who have stated that the hard choices, including euthanasia, must be considered.
Most of the Western United States is experiencing extreme heat and drought; incidence in the Southwest, by it’s location, would be increased, so this isn’t in dispute. However, the population numbers, the now and future estimates quoted in the report are.
According to the Navajo Nation Division of Economic Development, the Navajo Nation contains 17.2 million acres across the conjunction of three states – New Mexico, Arizona and Utah – and encompasses the Hopi Nation within it’s interior.
90,000 horses within the entire Navajo and Hopi Nations would be unsustainable, but the report also lacks any images of these vast herds.
Charles Graham of ‘Walkin’ N Circles Horse Rescue’ and participant in the task force, was quoted: “If you look at the age span of a horse, within five years, we could have 600,000 unwanted horses in the country.”
A crisis in the making.
There were no specifics offered as to how much of which country this number would cover. But that figure required some verification.
Simple biology stipulates that, of the purported 90,000 animals ravaging the Navajo Nation‘s landscape, approximately half – females – would be capable of producing live offspring. So, for the sake of argument, we begin with 45,000 mares, reproducing at 25%, the rate quoted in the article. The first year would produce 11,250 foals, all of which, for at least the first year, would be incapable of participating in reproduction.
Again, to replicate the absolute worst case scenario suggested by this report, the new population for the first year would become an estimated 101,250 animals. Further calculation, producing live foals every year capable of reproducing after a year would produce 72,245 foals, bringing the entire population to 162,245 animals by Year 5. Even incorporating these horses into the estimated populations of wild horses and burros in 10 Western States managed by the Bureau of Land Management – the female half of approximately 37,500 – and multiplying this population at 25% per annum over a 5-year period would bring the entire free-roaming equine population to around 194,550.
Even at 100% successful, 100% survival and 100% participation, 600,000 horses is more than 10 years away; it is not referenced and is unclear how this number was arrived at.
From the APHIS Native American Notebook, published March, 2010:
“Out West, rangeland is not fenced*, however. The Yakama horses wander around without reference to reservation boundaries. Similar herds are eating their way through natural forage at the same alarming rate nearby, at the Colville Reservation (also in Washington), at Warm Springs and Umatilla (in Oregon), and at Shoshone Bannock(in Idaho).
When representatives of the wildlife management units at those five tribes gathered together in November 2008 to talk about this problem, they came to the conclusion that there are at least 20,000 feral horses on their reservations altogether. Now horses typically live to about age 30, and a mare ordinarily has a foal every year (emphasis added). With few to no apex predators in that part of the United States, feral horse populations are going up about 20% every year, with no end in sight.”
A crisis predicated on longevity, profuse breeding and an absence of predators.
Even domestic horses, given every advantage and comfort, do not ‘typically’ live to age 30; among wild equines, 30 years is a rare exception for a life lived on the edge every day. A mare ‘ordinarily’ having a foal every year infers wild mares will be pregnant their entire adult lives. Others who have observed these animals in the wild understand – even absent human interference in the form of ’birth control’ – there are natural variables in herd life that will not bear this out, nor the utter absence of mortality – a reality always neatly avoided. But certainly these are important components for a crisis.
These quotes, and many others, have become an accepted part of the vernacular that continues to portray wild equines as undesirable and aberrant – while avoiding the necessity of providing evidence. And as an unfortunate result, these pronouncements continue to be accepted as truth, without any further confirmation.
The recent Desatoya roundup in Nevada removed 429 animals; foals accounted for about 18.8% (81) of those taken. The Jackson Mountains roundup took 647 animals. 20.25% (132) were foals. And the Pancake roundup removed 1,115 animals – only 19% (212) of which were foals.
Among the most alarming issues concerning wild, free-roaming equines is the ease of use of the terms ’estimates’, ’could have’, and ‘possible’, the constant claims of inflated populations and the lack of constraint in breeding. This news report was published – devoid of verification or confirmation – only the pronouncement of an imminent crisis. And once again, portrays wild equines as an extinction-level event, and considers mass euthanasia as the only recourse when employing any agency under the umbrella of the Interior Department other than the Bureau of Land Management.
Before creating a crisis that will most likely consign these animals to death across the border – the current euphemism for ‘euthanasia‘ – it’s even more critical these animals be portrayed and recognized in a realistic light:
For the Desatoya, only 81 mares can produce 81 foals.
For the Jackson Mountains, only 132 mares can produce 132 foals.
For the Pancake, only 212 mares can produce 212 foals.
No more.In each instance, less than half the mares removed produced a foal.
One additional light of realism: The combined total of both Wild and Captive Wild horses and burros, according to reports from the Bureau of Land Management, is 83,305 (estimated). How is it possible there are more free-roaming, abandoned and feral horses across the Navajo and Hopi Nations and the state of New Mexico than are under the entire purview of the BLM?
“Horse Population Runs Wild in N.M.”
Navajo Nation Division of Economic Development:
- Problems Arise at Desatoya Wild Horse Gather in Nevada (rtfitchauthor.com)
- TPWD Releases Photos of “Executed” Horses (rtfitchauthor.com)
- Wild Horses: Hazards From Humans on the Pryor Mountains (rtfitchauthor.com)
- Equine Advocacy Organizations Form Partnership with Cruelty Investigators (rtfitchauthor.com)
- Wild Horse Advocates Level Another Legal Blow Against BLM’s Bogus Emergency Gather (rtfitchauthor.com)