As published on DelmarvaNOW.com
While the BLM Kills and Maims Horses in the West, Assateague Horses Flourish in the East
“This story sharply contrasts the death, blood and destruction that is currently being rained down upon our wild horses and burros in the western United States. Monday the renegade Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began a 6 state, 4 month long assault upon federally protected wild equine with the hopes of destroying the freedom and families of 3,500 wild horses and burros. Meanwhile, quietly munching grass and enjoying the clicking shutters of tourist’s cameras are the wild ponies of Assateague.
What’s the difference? Easy, no slipshod, special interest manipulation by the federal cattle grazing agency known as the BLM, i.e. Blatant Liars and Manipulators. The Assateague horses and the Corolla herd are clear cut examples of non-invasive, on the range management that works for not only the horses but for the communities around them who bask in the dollars that tourist spend to see these wonderful creatures. Lesson learned? I think so; the only problem is that the BLM Wild Horse Harvesting Machine has it’s pedal to the metal and can’t hear common sense and good science over the roar of it’s screaming special interest engine and the cries of terror from the equines that it devours. The time to pull the plug on the BLM wrecking ball is long overdue.” ~ R.T.
When a domestic horse gets a case of colic or comes up lame, the vet is called.
So what steps are taken when one of the wild horses on Assateague Island National Seashore suffers a malady?
None. The park lets nature take its course.
Although it’s easy to compare the famous horses of Assateague to the equines at home on farms throughout Delmarva, staff members at the national park stress that there is one key difference: The animals on the barrier island are wild.
“The horses are wild,” said Jack Kumer, wildlife specialist at the park. “We treat them as wildlife. They’ve been living on their own here for 350 years. They can do well on their own.”
That, he says, is why park officials very rarely call a veterinarian to treat the animals.
The only time a vet is called to Assateague is when one of the wild horses is obviously suffering, Kumer said. A few years ago, a vet was called to euthanize an old mare who had stopped eating and could no longer stand. Prior to that, the last time a vet was in the park on business was when a horse had been struck by a car and had been cut by the vehicle’s mirror.
The cut, Kumer said, was not severe but, because it was it was the height of summer and so many park visitors were concerned about the horse, a veterinarian was called.
“It was a wound that was going to heal,” Kumer said. “It was not so much for the horse but for the people watching. We don’t want people to think the horses are suffering.”
The vast majority of the time, however, the horses are left to themselves, Kumer said. From a distance, park staff members watch the horses deal with injuries and ills on their own.
“They are wild horses,” Kumer said. “We don’t provide water, food or vet care.”
The only attention the horses, or at least the mares, receive is the administration of birth control. Kumer said that even with their lack of veterinary care, the animals had been so healthy that in the 1980s the park had to begin using birth control to keep the herd’s numbers from getting too high— the barrier island ecosystem can handle just a limited number of horses.
Since 1994, mares at the park have been under a regular birth control regimen, limiting the number of foals born each year to a handful. This year, there were three, one of which died shortly after being born.
Even so, the park’s wild horse population is up to 113.
Rachelle Daigneault, chief of interpretation and education at the park, says the herd is thriving.
“They’ve really made the most of the island,” she said.
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