Horse News

A biologist’s response to the BLM’s wild horse “problem”

Below is biologist Robert C. Bauer’s response to the recent Washington Post article on the BLM’s request for solutions for management of the wild horses & burros (the BLM hasn’t been able to get it right after 42 years).  This article is a MUST READ for all advocates! – Debbie Coffey

SOURCE:  Habitat for Horses

By Robert C. Bauer

In a recent article that was published in the Washington Post, under Health and Science, entitled “U.S. looking for ideas to help manage wild-horse overpopulation”, a plea was sent out by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a plea that requested ideas as to how to manage the wild horse and burro population in the wild.  This plea was reinforced by claims that the wild horse and burro population, on the western rangelands, was approximately 40,605 wild horses and or burros.  Additionally it was stated that there would be at least a 15% to 20% annual population growth rate of these wild horses and that in 6 years, by the year 2020, that number will have grown to be about 145,000 wild horses and burros in the wild.  Its claims also stated that contraceptive efforts had failed, and that the range lands could only sustain about 26,677 wild horses and or burros.  The undying claims of the BLM are that it is, in its efforts, out to help maintain a thriving natural ecological balance. This is the motivation to justify its roundups of thousands of wild horses that it says are destroying the rangelands of the west.  As a biologist, there is a scientific response to these allegations that the public needs to take into consideration before swallowing these claims of the BLM.

There are numerous factors that govern population growth in the wild for wild horses and burros, or lack of population growth.  The National Academy of Sciences did a study of the wild horse populations, using 8,764 wild horses, in the wild, as a basis for the following statistics.  It found that 1st year mortality rates annually ranged between 14% and 50%.  Beyond this, adult mortality was found to annually range between 5% and 25%.  What this means is, that in any given year, equine mortality on the range lands would be anywhere between 19% and 75% of the total population of wild horses.  I would ask that the reader to let these percentages sink in.  This mortality occurs naturally, due to predators of the wild horses and burros, which do indeed exist, along with environmental and weather related factors, which also affect competitive grazers. In addition sex ratios were found to average around 55% female and 45% male.  This must be considered as obviously only females can put a foal on the ground.  This is something that the BLM statistics do not reflect, but have conveniently neglected in its population growth claims.  The genders of foals must be taken into consideration, as not all foals are female, and only those that are females can begin to reproduce, but only after the 2nd year.  Added to this are considerations of delayed implantation, when the gestation period of a mare actually extends, due to stressful conditions on the range.  Spontaneous abortion also needs to be mentioned, along with selective breeding by the band stallions, whereby perhaps only one mare, if any at all, are bred, under harsh range conditions.  It then must be stated that added to this natural inhibition are those artificial adjustments added by the BLM that only serve to encourage the extinction of these wild ones.  The use of the PZP contraceptive is one, which has been found to inhibit reproduction in those mares that were treated, for up to 2 years, carrying with it other physiological side effects.  After the roundups of the BLM, which have been very aggressive, and relentless, roundups of which this individual has both documented and videoed, sex ratios are adjusted to roughly 47% female to 53% male.  This man made decrease in female density, along with the aggressive use of PZP by the BLM, have devastating effects on wild horse and burro populations.  These only encourage annual reproductive rates that are far less than natural on range mortality.  The result is diminishing numbers of wild horses and burros on the rangelands of the west.  To further complicate population growth are the countless illegal killings of the wild horses, motivated by age old prejudices, most of which go uncaught.  Also what must be included are the aggressive roundups of the BLM.  All of these variables serve not only to disprove the astronomical population growth rates of the BLM but also overall numbers in the wild.

The false allegations, by the BLM, that the numbers of wild horses on the range, could increase from 40,605 to 145,000 by the year 2020, a 6 year period, can easily be illustrated by a similar scenario.  This occurred in the 2009/2010 Calico Mt. round ups, that occurred in northwestern Nevada.  In this situation, according to the BLM, at the end of the 2004/2005 gather there were 575 horses total existing in the five HMAs making up what would be called the Calico Mt complex.  That population of 575, according to the BLM, in just a 4 year period, had grown to 3055 horses.  Of those 3055 horses and burros the BLM intended to gather 2,476 – 2,787 horses, then releasing up to 264.  The sex ratio after the 2004/2005 gather, however, was reported to be only 47% female and 53% male, which means only 47% of those horses would be able to contribute to a population growth.  Added to this, the PZP contraceptive had been administered, which was still in the experimental stage, and has been proven to disrupt the social structure of the wild horse and burro bands as well as to result in an increase of futile matings.  Of those 47% mares, 239 were said to have been inoculated with this PZP contraceptive which has roughly a two year effect.

Second, as stated earlier, it has been found that the minimum adult on the range annual mortality to be approximately 5%.  This factor also was not included in the BLM’s calculations which further reduced the possibility of this meager wild horse population of 575 in reaching 3055 horses in just a 4 year period.  Indeed, the number of horses that were rounded up, were only 1,992, at which point no other horses could be found.  Yet calculating a population growth from 575 horses to even 1,992 horses in a 4 year period, including just a 5% annual mortality, 47% of the population being mares being able to put a foal on the ground, and eliminating 239 of that 47% for the first 2 years because of PZP, it would require a 125% annual reproductive rate to offset these variables to reach that number.  Such reproductive rates do not occur in nature, which leads one to question or theorize exactly how those horses got out there!!  To state that 40,605 wild horses could increase to 145,000 horses in just a 6 year period, while factoring in natural mortality rates along with all other natural variables, would require astronomical reproductive rates to offset those variables.  Such reproductive rates do not and never will occur in nature.  Indeed, using the BLM’s own population statistics, factoring in nature’s mortality, sex ratios, aggressive use of PZP, while subtracting wild horses that have been rounded up, the numbers of wild horses and or burros remaining in the wild are in the low teens, if that.  Our wild horses and burros, existing in the wild, are close to extinction!!

wild horses in Montana's Pryor Mountains

In spite of the BLM’s assertions, that it is striving to maintain a thriving natural ecological balance, its methods and the manner in which they are being carried out, are anything but natural, nor do they bring about any balance.  Indeed, it is by these very methods, that the BLM uses, that the wild horses and burros, along with other aspects on the range are being thrown out of balance.  Nature, through its own mechanisms, has been maintaining what the BLM have termed, a thriving natural ecological balance, for thousands of years, without the artificial methods of mankind.  Indeed, it is mankind’s incessant belief that he must manage nature, which has thrown nature continually and consistently out of balance.  This makes the wild horse and burro program of the BLM completely unnecessary.  This program, however, is the very avenue by which the wild horses and burros will be raped from their legally designated lands, and nature destroyed.

This brings up a vital question to the reader.  With such factors as these existing, that govern wild horse and burros populations, along with the unnatural efforts of the BLM, that further degrade these same numbers, what are the true motivations of the BLM for distorting the numbers of wild horses and destroying these vital natural resources to true ecological balance?  The answer lies partly in livestock, mining, and energy interests.  The cow flop gets deeper when one realizes that in order for the BLM to acquire continued and increasing appropriations from congress, it has to justify the appropriations that it has already been getting.  Appropriations means not only a continued Wild Horse and Burro Program, but a lot of money to be made, not just for BLM employees but contractors that the BLM employs in the roundups, like the Cattoors, and Sun J, helicopter contactors.  This translates to a situation where the BLM has to somehow convince the public and congress, by whatever means possible, that the wild horses and burros are breeding like rabbits, and that the numbers are way out of control.  Here comes the deceit and distortion of numbers.  Somehow the public, for the most part swallows what the government is saying, hook line and sinker, without seeking the truly scientific truth, a truth which is for the most part grade school science.  For example, the BLM could say that the appropriate management level of wild horses in a certain area is only 600 wild horses.  In truth there may be only 300 wild horses there, but the BLM, to justify removal, continued appropriations, and appeasement of the livestock industry, will claim 900 horses existing in the area.  It will in turn say we need to round up 300 horses to bring the numbers back to its appropriate management level of 600, (see article entitled “The Unnatural Concept of the Appropriate Management Level”).  It will roundup 300 horses, zero out the area to make it available for the livestock industry, and still claim that there are 600 wild horses existing in that area.  This is a simple illustration but it is a tactic of the BLM.  This further translates to a governmental conspiracy by our government against wild horse and burro populations, in the wild, (see books written by wildlife ecologist, Craig Downer, “The Wild Horse Conspiracy “, and “Wild Horses: Living Symbols of Freedom”).

In conclusion, the wild horses and burros are a vital component to ecological balance out on the range lands of the west, the benefits of which are innumerable as opposed to cattle.  The numbers of these beautiful animals must be dictated, however, by nature itself and not man, through its own mechanisms.  Only in this manner will wild horse numbers be in balance with all other forms of wildlife, including those of the predators of the wild horses.  The wild horses are just this, wild, and in the wild, no matter how harsh or how mild the conditions may be, is where their beauty and their benefits exist and can be experienced.  The range lands that were once filled with vast numbers of wild horses, and other forms of wildlife, are now quickly dying due to the artificial efforts of our government.  The rangelands, however, can easily sustain not only the wild horses and burros existing out there now, but also every one of those in holding facilities, which now number well over 40,000. The truth is that every one of those wild horses and burros in holding facilities, if released back to the areas from which they were taken, along with those in the wild, would help bring the balance back to the rangelands, a balance that is so very vital!!

Robert C. Bauer   Biologist        rcbauer7@gmail.com

24 replies »

  1. Now I wish people in the “real world” would have read this article but alas, don’t think so. Another good article thrown to the wayside because of lack of interest and not wanting to bring doubt as to the BLM’s “method of maddness”. Everyone with an ounce of sense know exactly what the BLM is doing and where the money is flowing
    from and to. It will take this Nation’s people to bring this to a close.
    Now the BLM want to take the majority of the stockpiled Mustangs and sell them to the inevitabl kill buyer, at auction held in know kill buyer areas.
    No rocket scientist needed here.

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    • Advocates who want to “DO SOMETHING” should e-mail this article to their Congressional representatives and to the media, including as many internet media sources as possible. This article needs to be circulated far and wide. Please help out by doing this.

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      • Deb,

        I found a document from another country’s government that has confirmed the sense i had the synonyms used in both UN CBD Article 8(h) and the 1997 Update of the International Plant Protection Convention that went into effect 10/02/2005 are indeed connected.

        What this suggest to me is that the Clinton administration was desperate to get something that was to have become legally possible when the Senate passed the UN CBD Article 8(h) that they could not do merely through federal agency regulations as mere signatories to the treaty. The Senate’s ratification of the IUCN’s update to the treaty to include the WTO and Phytosanitary Treaties which may also include language that would have indicated that horses being imported and exported out of the United States have to be quarantined. Therefore, there must be some communication between the USDA and those veterinary practices that serve as quarantine facilities for horses. So there may be multiple ways that our native wild and domestic horses are classified as alien, invasive, pest species. By putting this in a ratified multinational treaty, the classification of our (native) wild horses under UN CBD Article 8 (h) that directs parties to prevent, control, and eradicate alien species is states and parts of states where found. The IPPC directs parties to protect plants from harmful (invasive) plant and animal species.

        The document that tied the two treaties discussed how individual countries can choose to use either their environmental or agricultural departments to be the agency of authority for the IPPC. Since we did not ratify the UN CBD, we use the USDA because the IPPC is concerned with agricultural plants and crops.

        Perhaps we need to call our representatives and senator to get them to freeze funds. We should request funds originally appropriated for round ups be allotted to contract for auditors, advocates, and BLM personnel to try to get an accurate herd count. I have no idea how difficult it would be to count the number of mares in the herd because mares of reproductive age make up the effective population.

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  2. this Is More eloquently Stated Than What I’ve Been Saying All Along But I’m On The Same Page As This Gentleman And Craig Downer. I tip My Hat To Them Both. Talking Too The BLM Is A Waste Of Time. If You Want Anything Done To Have To Make An End Run Around Them And Get It Done. They Are In It For The Money That They Receive For Horses And Burros That Don’t Exist…Our Tax Money By THe Way. Bravo To The Writer And To You Who Shared This With The Rest Of The Group. You better Find A Easy Too Get The BLM Wild Horse Extinction Plan Disbanded And Get Those Horses Set free. Otherwise They Will Be Lost Forever.

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  3. Our squeaky wheels need to get louder……..just read something about the Dust Bowl being caused by overfarming, destroyng roots of plants that kept the dirt from blowing away. Now, we will have another , caused by the BLM greed.

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  4. Many thanks to Robert Bauer for setting the record straight on the population statistics and for revealing how BLM uses their statistics to underhandedly zero out herd areas. I think 80% of “the people” nowadays see through BLM’s agenda, like they did on the horse slaughter issue, the wolf de-listing and extermination issue, and other wildlife issues.

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  5. Disrupting established herds, separating mothers and offspring, and selectively removing males is how people increase reproduction of meat animals. Respecting the natural balance of sexes (50/50), leaving family units together, and only removing equal numbers of adolescent horses that are on the fringes of established herds when absolutely necessary would reduce population growth to maintenance levels within a few years.

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  6. As one conservation biologist to another, I say: Hoo Rah! Finally a voice of SCIENTIFIC reason. Now if we can only make every word of that voice heard by the President and his Interior Department leaders.

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  7. It is such a disgrace what is happening today to the wild horses and burros and their rightful legal lands. I commend Robert Bauer for telling the greater truth here and standing up for the greater justice and ecological sanity. The horses and burros restore the North American ecosystem in so many ways and they are so beautiful, beauty being a universal language that is understood by all and that conveys the wonderful natural harmony they promote. As the Amerindians wisely stated: “The Grass Remembers The Horses” and this is so very true. See my book The Wild Horse Conspiracy in print at http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Horse-Conspiracy-Craig-Downer/dp/1461068983 or as an eBook with many wonderful pictures of them in the wild in color at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009XJ64P4. By the way the state of Nevada just came out with a very biased film called Rangeland on Fire, part of the Stewarts of the RAnge series that is being shown repeatedly on the PBS TV here in Nevada and that glorifies the ranchers and attacks the wild horses. It is so full of lies and distortions, so unjust. It must be countered with the greater truth and justice.

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  8. This is very well written and I am going to share it this does need to get around. What does surprise me is the fact the people do believe the government they never seem to tell the truth about anything else why would people believe them on this sad, It boils down to the people that are making money off the round ups and the government wanting the money from the ranchers for grazing rights. They will put the rattlesnake and other animals on the extinction list but yet are doing everything they can to wipe out the mustangs. I have got to see some in the wild they are the most proud beautiful animal they need to be saved as much as our American symbol the Bald Eagle.

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  9. Finally, someone that knows what is going on, and how to put it into words that everyone can understand! Should be required reading for all government employees. It is very sad that this activity is what our tax money goes toward.
    Thank you Robert C Bauer!

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  10. Too many gullible people believe everything they hear from government agencies without asking for evidence to back up the data. Officials in authority routinely lie to the public on all manner of subjects, and even though those falsehoods are revealed and censured every day, the average citizen still gives them credence. Even congressmen can’t be bothered to double-check the so-called “facts.” They parrot what they’re told by the BLM, even though there’s an obvious conflict of interest. By lying about the number of wild horses and burros on public lands, the BLM receives more and more money to “manage” the phantom animals. At the same time, the livestock industry infiltrates the BLM so they can encourage round-ups and “managed” extinction of wildlife on public lands, thus opening up more opportunities for their “welfare ranching” agenda. Only by educating gullible people (especially congressmen) can we put a halt to the wildlife eradication policies of the BLM.

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  11. Same bitter wine, different species:

    http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2014/02/12/yellowstone-initiates-2014-wild-bison-slaughter/#comment-310464

    Yellowstone Initiates 2014 Wild Bison Slaughter:
    by KEN COLE on FEBRUARY 12, 2014 · 44 COMMENTS · in BISON, BRUCELLOSIS, PRESS RELEASE
    25 of America’s Last Wild Bison Trapped at Stephens Creek; 20 Shipped to Slaughter

    A wild bison is confined in Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek Trap
    National Park Service Photo
    Click HERE for Print Quality Version

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – February 12, 2014
    Contacts:
    Dan Brister, Buffalo Field Campaign, 406-646-6506

    GARDINER, MONTANA: Yellowstone National Park shipped 20 of America’s last wild bison to slaughter this morning. 25 bison were captured on Friday in the Stephens Creek bison trap, located inside the world’s first national park. After being confined in the trap for five days, 20 of the bison were handed over to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, who are required to slaughter them under a controversial agreement between the tribes and the Park. Five bison remain locked in the trap as of Wednesday afternoon.

    Yellowstone plans to slaughter between 600 and 800 bison this winter, according to park spokesman Al Nash. “We’re going to seek opportunities to capture any animals that move outside the park’s boundaries,” he said. Yellowstone has set a “population target,” or objective, of 3,000 to 3,500 animals.

    The current buffalo population numbers approximately 4,400 (1,300 in the Central Interior and 3,100 in the Northern range). The Central Interior subpopulation also migrates north into the Gardiner basin and has not recovered from the last Park-led slaughter in 2008 that killed over half of the Central Interior buffalo. The government’s “population target” makes no distinction for conserving subpopulations in this unique buffalo herd.

    According to Dan Brister, Executive Director of Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC), “This number was politically derived to limit the range of wild buffalo and has no scientific basis. It does not reflect the carrying capacity of the buffalo’s habitat in and around Yellowstone National Park.”

    This is the first time Yellowstone has turned bison over to the tribes under the slaughter agreements. According to James Holt, a Nez Perce Tribal Member and a member of BFC’s board, “It is disheartening to see tribes support these activities.”

    “Buffalo were made free, and should remain so,” he said. It is painful to watch these tribal entities take such an approach to what should be the strongest advocacy and voice of protection. It is one thing to treat their own fenced herds in this manner, it is quite another to push that philosophy onto the last free-roaming herd in existence. Slaughter Agreements are not the answer.”

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