Horse News

Canadian Vet Seeks Reproductive Alternative to Wild Horse Cull

By: Kathryn McMackin as published in the Cochrane Eagle

“The beauty of this particular contraceptive is that it doesn’t disrupt cycling or the horses’ behaviors, which is very important for the herd,”

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

As the debate continues surrounding the government-appointed wild horse cull in Alberta, one veterinarian has been researching a more sustainable solution to manage the free-ranging horse population: a safe method of contraception.

Dr. Judith Samson-French is no stranger to utilizing contraception as a management tool — she’s used it for years to control the feral dog population on First Nations communities. Through the Dogs With No Names project, she’s found success by administering a contraceptive implant in female dogs that renders them infertile.

A similar method can be used for wild horses, she said.

Jay Kirkpatrick is the director of the Science and Conservation Centre at ZooMontana in Billings, Mont. The centre develops and distributes wildlife contraceptives — including porcine zona pellucida (PZP).

Kirkpatrick said the PZP injection has been used, with much success, in horses for 27 years.

“The beauty of this particular contraceptive is that it doesn’t disrupt cycling or the horses’ behaviours, which is very important for the herd,” said Kirkpatrick. “It’s the only known contraceptive that does not interfere with the endocrine system.”

The PZP injection can be administered using disposable darts and an injection rifle. The inoculation does not harm the horses, although Kirkpatrick said the dart can take them by surprise.

The contraceptive is about 95 per cent effective, he added.

In addition to horses, PZP has been used to manage fertility in zoo animals, urban deer and Catalina Island’s bison population.

“We’re hardly trailblazing by using this method,” said Samson-French, who operates out of Banded Peak Veterinary Hospital.

But research must be completed before a contraceptive method can be implemented. Samson-French said she’s been looking at numbers and waiting on information from trappers.

“You need to know the fertility rates, the gender distribution and to zone in on the population that’s causing the problem,” she said.

“We need to know where we’re starting before we know where to end. How many wild horses is too many?”…(CONTINUED)

Click (HERE) to read the rest of the story and to comment at the Eagle

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8 replies »

  1. Does anyone have good information on the effects of darting mares already pregnant? The photo with this article got me wondering.

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    • We ARE doing this in some HMA’s as I understand it. The Sand Wash HMA is one I believe. It still implies there is an overpopulation (which is roundly disputed) and also undeniably qualifies as genetic bottlenecking… which in rapidly diminishing populations reduces diversity and increases inbreeding and related genetic dead ends.

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  2. Interesting article, thanks! I am pleased to see more and more research looking into the effects of contraception, in case this is deemed as the best procedure to curb overpopulation where it may exist. I feel skeptical though about any “salespitch” in which it is claimed that a contraceptive does not affect individual or collective behavior.

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  3. I’m glad to see that the vet wants more scientific evidence before she commits. It’s a shame that the horses trapped already will be a quick easy buck for their temporary owners. They shouldn’t be paid at all these horses shoo lg not be slaughtered. Remove the damned livestock if anything. Sadly, that is the problem.. I have nothing against the poor cows and sheep but their greedy owners at the problem.

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  4. Hey, I agree with Terri. The whole thing is one sided. It all points to the same question, if the idiots running the blm were doing their jobs, they would have this information. My conclusion is that they just want to spend american tax dollars to roundup and eventually send the majority of the horses and burros to slaughter. If this happens, who will be pocketing this blood money and who will be accountable for this revenue. The blm sure knows how to spend our hard earned money. I never realized until this last year how incompetent they really are. Wild horse Annie was right. God rest her soul. I bet she thought the horses and burros would be safe once she got the legislation passed. Its a sad state when greedy people dismantle all the good that has been done. My only hope is that the “safr act” can be passed before it is too late.

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  5. I do not believe there is a need for leaving Mustangs unable to conceive , first question that comes to mind, is this reversible, and until some proves it is needed, I am not in favor of it, although it is a much better answer then the one that is on the table ……………………….

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