Horse News

The Art of Creating A Crisis

Guest OpEd by Lisa LeBlanc ~ Advisory Board Member of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“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:

APHIS Native American Notebook, March, 2010:
* Article, “Did Fencing in Wild Herd Area Spell Death for Mustangs During Twin Peaks Wild Fires?” By Grandma Gregg; pictorial evidence disputes this.
Desatoya Final Gather Report:
Jackson Mountain Final Gather Report:
Pancake Final Gather Report:
Navajo Nation Division of Economic Development:
APHIS Native American Notebook, March, 2010:
* Article, “Did Fencing in Wild Herd Area Spell Death for Mustangs During Twin Peaks Wild Fires?” By Grandma Gregg; pictorial evidence disputes this.
Desatoya Final Gather Report:
Jackson Mountain Final Gather Report:
Pancake Final Gather Report:

40 replies »

  1. The numbers still don’t add up:

    Breaking Through Del Rio

    The four-year grand jury investigation of the Wild Horse & Burro Program and the over 3,000 pieces of evidence it accumulated that was slammed shut in 1996 (without any of this evidence ever being heard) is often referred to in wild horse circles as “Del Rio”.

    Does anyone remember what the final straw was that broke the back of the Del Rio grand jury’s investigation? It was a subpoena issued to BLM demanding an “inventory” of a 1,200 capacity long-term holding facility in Osasge County, OK, – a legal subpoena BLM refused to grant.

    Let me repeat this so it is crystal clear…

    Because a subpoena demanded an accounting of the number of wild horses in a BLM holding facility, the BLM successfully shut down a grand jury investigation of the United States of America rather than comply and allow independent law enforcement to verify the number of wild horses BLM said they were holding in the facility. (To be fair, this wasn’t the only reason BLM didn’t want the mountain of evidence assembled against them to ever be heard but it was the subpoena that forced their hand to dismantle the investigation through a variety of tactics).

    The key word was inventory – meaning numbers – and anyone who takes a little time to research this issue quickly realizes this is a “numbers game”. As the lives of America’s wild horses and burros continue to tip precariously closer to execution and/or slaughter, the future they are facing is a result of only one thing – numbers.

    Whether discussing the financial numbers, the numbers in long and short term holding, the numbers on the range, population censuses numbers, reproduction numbers, forage or water utilization numbers or the allowed population numbers BLM has set in relation to the “numbers” of everything else in the thriving natural ecological balance, every act, decision and proposal finds its roots in numbers. Yet despite this, why do the numbers so often fail to add up?


    • Can you tell me how it was that the BLM shut down a grand jury investigation? With a subpoena they are supposed to adhere to? I am just wondering how you get away with that.


      • Because the Executive Branch, with Congress want these animals gone, dead to control the land for sales, leases and extraction…especially water.

        The Justice Department (Eric Holder under the guidance and orders of the Executive Branch) squash all. It really doesn’t matter Democrat or Republican; when it comes to animals and public land, they are on the same kill page for special interest a la Cheney privatize everything public and rule the world.


    • The lack of accountability through the use of accurate and verifiable numerical The lack of lack of verifiable data, inconsistent data, and a lack of a systematic approach to data integrity should be grounds alone to fire all upper level management and most field managers and their staffs. This type of corruption or studied incompetence cannot exist in an organization that is properly managed. should be the single biggest alarm bell for the Congress, the National Research Center, the GAO, the Judicial System and every American Tax Payer.

      Instead the BLM and their rancher clients have managed to confuse and distort any attempt to get an accurate account of wild horse and burro numbers. The only way to get an accurate count is to have an independent accounting firm to take an inventory of the wild horse and burro herds without the BLM, FS, NPA, and FWS having any idea of when, where, and how this inventory will be taken; however, the counters should be given the authority of law enforcement or be accompanied by the FBI in order to assure that that they are given free access to all areas on the open range as well as 24/7 access to short term and long term holding facilities. If these ranchers are becoming millionaires from the tax payer dollars being transferred to their accounts gratis the BLM, they need to expect tax payers want them to held accountable for every single horse on their property. If they are allotted 4,000 horses in May, there should be 4,000 horses in June. If a horse dies, then the horse’s death should be recorded and an accompanying picture of the dead horse should confirm the date and the manner of death. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but with digital recording in both video and photo form is so simply now, even someone who works for the BLM should be able to figure it out—well maybe not, since these wranglers have proven themselves to be rather camera shy.

      Many of the BLM employees are ranchers themselves or have worked in ranching. Every farmer and rancher I have ever known can tell you exactly how many head of cattle he has, how many head of sheep he has, how many head of horses he has to the pasture. They are constantly counting because each one of those head represents economic gain or loss for him. They count their numbers as carefully as Ebenezer Scrooge counted his coins—“Mingle, tingle, coins when they jingle make such a lovely sound…” Most farmers can even tell you what kind of grass the animals eat and know which ones in the herd are the pickiest and which ones will eat what the others usually leave alone.

      It is not plausible that these wranglers cannot and do not account for each horse on the range. There is not a doubt in my mind that there is duplicity between the BLM and the public lands ranchers to get wild horses to horse slaughter facilities. The fairly recent attempt to get them into holding and slaughter, I think may have come as an unintended consequence of HSUS’s successful work to get the BLM to agree to implement birth control, the increased interest by members of the public to visit wild horses, more photographers and videographers revealing the world on the wild horse, the ability of the Internet to make the discovery of what these ranchers and federal employees have been doing known instantaneously around the world by (apparently) everyone in the world but the Congress, and the Administration, and some members of the judiciary.

      But what is truly unacceptable is that someone in our government does not hold these hoodlums accountable for their failure to perform their jobs.

      Some of these people need to herded up and transported to Alcatraz. At least that way Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator Feinstein, et al can assure their constituents that these criminals are off the street and no longer represent an imminent danger to themselves or others. While at Alcatraz, each former employee could take a few courses as part of their rehabilitation program such as How to Count, How to Count Individual Members in Groups, How to Use Tape Recorders, Digital Photo/Video Cameras, I-Pad Cameras, and a sharpened pencil and a legal pad for Documentation, Beginning Vocabulary for Government Employees, An Introduction to Ethical Behavior, Elementary Concepts of Humane Care for members of the species Equus caballus, Empathy for Junior High School Boys, and the Law of Karma and Cosmic Consequences.

      If this agency wanted to objectively evaluate its own effectiveness, it would keep records with verifiable data. However, an objective evaluation of its own operations is only sought when an organization is trying to operate above board and seeks to be able to measure how it is doing and develop a plan to improve the areas where it is weak. Rather, this organization treats numbers as if numbers were the warts that will expose what they do in the dark.

      If the BLM understood that it is expected to manage our wild horses and burro herds to a standard of excellence, we wouldn’t have this half-baked, hair-brained, helter-skelter, approach. We should have the ability to fire studiously incompetent federal agencies. The current situation is completely untenable, and if the Congress, the Administration, or the Judiciary does not bring these (miBLM) Homo sapien beasts to heel, we may have to stage a tea party at Chicago on the Potamac.


  2. horse and burros “today”…dogs and cats “tomorrow”….the elderly next?….and then, as in China, human population “control”…the canary is on the floor of its cage, gasping for air….


  3. The navajos want to put a horse slaughter plant up but not necessarily on the navajo reservation. They want to say they have the horses for it. They are, always have been pretty much always will be liars. Ask the Hopi Indians what they think of the navajo. The ones you are hearing about and who are doing all this calculating are the ones along the border of navajo lands around Holbrook, Winslow and Gallup. The navajos farther back on the reservation, the ones who don’t live that much with the white man, the ones who still respect the earth; Those you are not hearing from. Just the greed.




    • BLM has been audited (some time back) and they were repeatedly scolded….yet Congress and the White House/Executive Branch DID NOTHING.


      • Denise, this wasn’t just a scolding…it was a DEMAND from congress also…yet still NOTHING has been done!


      • NVKate…so, what does that tell you and since then a bogus GAO report on how equines need to be slaughtered for human consumption????? Hmmmmmmm…..


      • I don’t know what we’re going to have to do to get this changed. We have a number of dedicated, intelligent, and ethical members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. I firmly believe the biggest barrier to progress for our wild horses and burros at this time is the fact that Senator Harry Reid is the second most, maybe the most, powerful man in the country or even in the world, or at least he used to be. He serves John Fallen, the NCA, and the public lands council, and it is they, not the President who pull the Senator’s string. The President has never been anywhere where he would have had an opportunity to develop an appreciation for horses and their connection to humans, so it is understandably unlikely that this has any emotional overtones for him. But this is vital to Senator Reid. Had someone other than Senator Reid been President of the Senate in 2009, the Restore Our American Mustangs Act might have had a chance to be heard in committee and possibly offered for debate on the Senate Floor. Nothing will happen until the Senator finds himself back in Searchlight, Nevada, for good. The next opportunity for that to happen is in 2014 unless the Republicans take the Senate this fall or the Democrats continue to grow increasingly frustrated at the .lack of legislative action. The Senate Democratic caucus could fire him, but a lot of what he does is stealth and has been put in place a step at a time over a period of years.


      • Incorrect…we do know. Please reread this post, Cindy MacDonald’s info, the other wild equine blogs to include RTs.

        What we currently have is an agency (agencies?) that manipulated data, requirements, reports, spun/lied. PRd to death the wild equines and no one in charge calling them on it….for decades.

        It is an equal opportunity B$ activity with a BIG fail for the equines.


  5. A mountain of lies continues, while all of our beautiful wild ones are not only losing their freedom, but now facing dealth?! The real numbers fail to add up, because they don’t want the truth exposed …this goes beyond belief! Our laws were made to protect them…this should NOT be happening!


    • Isn’t this an interesting state of affairs. The only population treated worse than our wild horses and burros and the press who covers them are the Native Americans. Do we know if there are any illegal horse slaughter facilities operating on public or private ranch land or reservations in the West as they are in Miami?


  6. Ms LeBlanc:

    Thank you for stating the obvious which appears to be lost on the guardians of the press and information to the people.

    These stories have been spiking recently and I feel this is an attempt to kill more wild equines.

    Thank you Ms LeBlanc…no one challenges these lies and spin save for the advocates and maybe journalists like Vickery and Andrew over at Forbes and The Atlantic (although I think these are not featured in hardcopy, only blogs).

    I still don’t understand how they (the killers) are allowed to get a free pass on the B$ pop counts, faux emergencies and violation of the 1971 Act to include fencing of migratory paths, water sources and reduction of HMAs.

    Thank you…again and everyone should send a copy of this to their reps (Senate and House) and demand why they (the killers) are being allowed to pump this poop out without legitimate science and violation of the 1971 Act.


  7. Several points made in prior comments are right on target. Louis you have hit the nail on the head, and Tawny you’re right also. It’s the greedy ‘nations’ looking for a fast buck that are inflating numbers and using spin language in their press releases.

    I’m not going to admonish all Indians, but I will the greedy! Anyone remember the Dan sisters in Eastern NV? Rounding up free roaming horses, claiming the horses were Indian horses, then sending them to slaughter? It’s only because the BLM didn’t get their cut of blood money that they were stopped!


  8. That’s what this CURRENT Administration and group of Saul Alinsky-ITES are all about…LIES and CREATING CRISIS so they can whip up the masses to beg for GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION. It’s about POWER for them and STRIPPING THE COMMON CITIZEN of his/her power, self-empowerment, and VOICE to sound the alarm. YOU ARE WONDERFUL R.T. FITCH! I WISH THERE WERE A HUNDRED OF YOU!


    • Quoting Saul Alinsky is a Republican, hard right wing Republican tactic. (btw, you know he is associated with a Thomas Paine community centrist philosophy…right?…gonna bash Thomas Paine???)O

      I said BOTH sides pull this B$.

      You should be sending faxes to both sides of the aisle in an attempt to get our, repeat OUR government back. They both stink as a whole, especially stripping individuals of self-empowerment and/or the will of the people.

      I didn’t vote for Obama and I still don’t know who I will vote for.

      I care about the equines, my food, my land, my government. Please take your Obama bashing somewhere else…this is about humans treating equines immorally and unethically. It isn’t right or left; it is about right or wrong.


  9. I still recommend that this be sent, via fax to Congress stating that the numbers don’t add up and the intent is extermination against the 1971 Act. Period.

    I’d sign it saying (killer or anti slaughter rep)…”and what are you doing about ilegal actions in violation of the 1971 Act, fraud, waste and abuse”??????? p.s. I don’t want a canned letter back. If you defend this massacre, then defend it….WITH FACTS AND DATA, not spin or silence.


  10. Just an after thought, but this spin intensity on hoards of mustangs and burros is an attempt to do two things:

    (1) Keep the killing machine funded and continuing; and,

    (2) A distraction and cover for the many wild equines that have died, disappeared, sent to slaughter, are in the slaughter pipeline, fraud contractors, bad “science” and the special interest that are raping the land….OH!.. and a justification for mass euthanasia to hide the bogus numbers OF EVERYTHING! they have said that were lies.

    Good news, bad news; good they are scared because the data is going to get out, bad news about what we all know has happened to these National Treasures….and HCHS for that matter.


  11. Most fertile mares don’t become pregnant until the foal has left her side. Usually about 2 years, give or take. The only horses that breed back right after the foal is born are part of a man made breeding operation like cattle. So, in my opinion, these rapid rabbit like reproduction theories are a bucket full of bullshit. The predators (wolves, coyote packs, cougars, etc) prey on the young and weak or aged so again their numbers are bullshit. Oh and let’s not forget the predators calling themselves man..the biggest, most brutal and wasteful predators of all. These so called tribes go against everything that they stand for if they support this load of crap…I guess the European influence has taken its toll on them..


  12. And as America’s Wild Horses and Burros are disappearing, never to be seen again, so are their Legal Herd Management Areas….22 Plus Million Acres (that is a conservative estimate). Land transfers, land sales……. ZEROED OUT HERD AREAS. WHERE has that land gone? To WHO? WHY? The Public needs to demand the Truth and our Wild Horses and Burros need to be returned to their Land.


  13. Yes, whatever the numbers are on the Navajo or other reservations this is all getting too close to the public lands issues and our wild ones. Slaughter is being pushed and no other influences for the stabilization of wild and or reservation horses is out there that I know of. Keep your ears and eyes open as this all becomes more urgent for solutions and actions to be taken.


  14. It may help to know that there are actually some sane heads in the room with Charles on the Taskforce. His incindiary rants are not accepted as truth. Although he does have the backing of the proslaughter groups like the New Mexico Horse Council – which should be ashamed of themselves.


  15. The Lies coming from this Agency are unacceptable by anyone’s standards , I am tired of the Corruption and most of all the Capturing of Americas Free Roaming Wild Mustangs whom are protected by the ROAM ACT of 1971………………… This is an abomination of America and it must be stopped !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! When 80% of America agree , what more do they need to know??????? …………………. This Agency disgraces America on a Daley Basis, also the People In America………… The America I Love and Believe in would never stand Idle with this, this Agency is CORRUPT and needs to be HELD ACCOUNTABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  16. There is no way there are that many “loose or wild” horses here on the Navajo Reservation. I am an Anglo, living and working here for the past 20 years. The rangers round the excess horses up at lease once, sometimes twice a year. If they are branded their owners are given the chance to come get them out of empoundment. If unbranded, they are auctioned off.
    The Navajo are not that respectful of their animals until someone hits one on the highway, then it’s the most prized possession! There is no, absolutely no herd management, they breed at will, even in the winter resulting in foals being born in the winter time, it’s very tragic!
    The reason the land is so over grazed is because of the sheep and goats. They do not have a conception of switching off grazing lands to let them lay fallow, they just let the livestock eat until the green is all the way gone.
    These people were never farmers or ranchers remember? They were hunter gatherers from long ago. Everything they have learned has been haphazard and only partially learned.
    These people are not the respectful Native American that you might want to believe they are. They are very selfish, self righteous and have a sense of self entitlement that is very off-putting. Of course I am generalizing, but you get the idea. Feel sorry for the horse, not the Navajo….


  17. The thing about the original report – the one that inspired this one? There is no mention of exactly who told who how they arrived at 90,000 horses. But that’s a sizable herd that can’t really hide under the sagebrush or salt bush, isn’t it?

    I suspect this ‘horde’ of animals may have a lot to do with some ordinary folks trying to save some of the legacy herds out there, and other folks trying to remove them under the guise of this particular ‘crisis’.


  18. Falsifying federal reports should be grounds for dismissal. The inability to accurately complete a government report should be grounds for probation and further employment should be based on staff development to help the employee learn how to do basic accounting and keep records. The employees subsequent performance should be continually monitored for a period of time, to ensure that his deficiency has been corrected. It has to be easier to fire people who are tempermentaly incompetent, amoral, or have too many deficits to perform the duties of their jobs.


  19. ;The number don’t add up to say the least! Once again people sound like they know what they are doing when it is obvious they don’t! The solution always seems to be buildt a slaughter factory for horses or ship horses over the border to Mexico to be slaughtered! It never ends! Even if some horse slaughter factories would become reality,which I hope never happens,some people will still be complaining about wild horse populations! It just goes no matter what happens some people would like to see all the wild horses be gone from the wild! This will never end until the last wild horse is killed or caught! Wish it would end!


  20. i have driven all over southern nevada, all of arizona. across new mexico for the last 30 years, i have yet to see one single wild horse! it astounds me that these people actually believe that the american public will believe their lies! just where are these horses hiding? its not like there is a lot of places to hide in the desert.


  21. Completely stupid! What exactly, do the Navajo people/Nation, themselves, have to say about this, or, about how many “free-roaming” horses are “really” out there? I would trust & believe a true Native Amercan, over ANYONE of European descent. And, yes, where are all these 90,000 or so free-roaming horses hiding, why hasn’t anyone else seen them?? Just another pathetic excuse to remove & kill more of America’s mustangs. There aren’t even close to that number of wild free-roaming horses left, in the entire Western portion of the U.S.. Just ridiculous!


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