“…stable wild horse family groups self-limit birth rates, but roundups destroy the family groups.”
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced a gather of up to 200 wild horses in the Cold Creek area of southern Nevada – about 30 miles west of Las Vegas. They say horses are suffering from extreme drought conditions and lack of forage. Local wild horse observers agree that some wild horses – perhaps up to 70 (but not 200 that the BLM intends to remove) have stopped migrating up to summer forage higher in the mountains until mares, particularly old ones, with foals are either in poor condition or starving.
However wild horse advocates once again disagree vehemently with the BLM as to the cause. They say the lack of forage may never have happened if the BLM and USFS had not delayed for 2 years in permitting trained volunteers to apply reversible birth control to the wild horses in the Spring Mountain range. And – to be fair – if some of the public had not fed Cold Creek wild horses to get close-up photos.
In June 2013, the US Forestry service (USFS) and BLM proposed a management plan based on roundup and removal of so-called excess wild horses. America’s Wild Horse Advocates then proposed an alternative management plan near Cold Creek where nearly all mares would be darted painlessly with a proven contraceptive, PZP, that has significantly reduced birth rates, for example, in buffalo on Catalina Island, in 4 different wild horse areas across the US, in deer populations and even elephants in African parks. The animals were kept in numbers that their habitat could support. More importantly, stable wild horse family groups self-limit birth rates, but roundups destroy the family groups.
This is what local Las Vegas residents have argued for since 2011, even going to Washington to present their plan. At no cost to the taxpayer, local wild horse advocates could have provided the certified darters, the contraceptive and a careful documentation of the results of the PZP plan. Within 5-7 years, the birth rate would have just replaced animals lost to natural causes like mountain lions, lightning strikes and old age (see springmountainalliance.org).
Las Vegas wild horse advocates proposed to disperse water sources across the range so horses would not concentrate near Cold Creek. Dispersed water sources would also benefit deer and elk, the other large mammals near Las Vegas that the Nevada Dept. of Wildlife (NDOW) has tried to reduce in number by increased hunting licenses. But the BLM and US Forestry Service has extended the environmental assessment until January 2016 and, you watch, they may extend it to May 2016. Three years to analyze simple alternative plans?
So why don’t the trained advocates just dart the wild horse mares and build alternative water sources on their own? Because they would violate federal laws that carry heavy fines and even federal sentences.
Why don’t the federal agencies allow reversible PZP on wild horses in our public land in the Spring Mountains? Why indeed?