Horse News

Fabulous Fake Facts About American’s Wild Horses and Burros

By Charlotte Roe

“PLEASE call your Senator and share this Misinformation with them before they vote on the Appropriation Bill.  Let them know that you will NOT tolerate the murder of federally protected wild horses and burros.  AND if money is the issue, why in the hell are horses being rounded-up as I type.  It is pure insanity.!” ~ R.T.

3 HMAs destroyed, wild horses gone forever ~ photo of Antelope Complex taken by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

FAKE: Wild horses and burro populations are exploding on the range.

The BLM’s claims that free-roaming equine populations double every four years is not backed by evidence (even their own version of such). Real world population rates are context-specific. They vary widely depending on management techniques, climate, forage, water resources and predation. The BLM’s population estimates are notoriously sketchy, often contradictory, and in many cases biologically impossible. It manages the vast majority of herd management areas at levels below the minimum (150-200) population size for genetic sustainability. The 2013 report of the National Academy of Sciences stated that BLM’s population targets (“appropriate management levels”) are arbitrary, unreasonably inflexible, and not science-based.

FAKE: Wild horses and burros must be removed to prevent range degradation.

Abundant studies document the severe impacts of cows and sheep upon fragile western ecosystems. Environmental damage cannot credibly be blamed predominantly on wild horses and burros. They occupy a fractional part of the ranges lawfully designated for them by the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRHBA). Since 1971, the BLM withdrew 22 million acres from federally designated wild horse habitat for commercial uses: taxpayer subsidized corporate ranching, gas, oil, and mining. The ecological footprint of wild horses and burros is supremely light compared to privately owned cows and sheep, which outnumber free-roaming equines on public lands by at least 60 to one. The BLM has never acknowledged or tried to understand the positive impacts of the free-roaming single-hoofed animals which the WFRHBA calls “integral to the range ecology.” They spread seeds. They blaze trails, break ice and open watering holes for other wildlife. They consume fire-prone vegetation and underbrush.

FAKE: Maintaining wild equines in holding bankrupts the BLM.

It costs nothing to maintain wild horses and burros on the range. The BLM says their warehousing costs $50,000 over the lifetime of each captured animal. They claim 46,000 wild horses and burros are held in short or long-term holding facilities. The system of paying long term holding contractos upwards of $39 million annually to keep horses off their rightful ranges and mainly out of public view encourages corruption and fiscal mismanagement. The BLM’s management model is a manufactured crises based upon unprovable numbers. An independent study released in July 2017 found less than half of the wild horses and burros the BLM claims to be underwriting could be accounted for: breaks-rule-of-law-making-extinction-all-but-inevitable-for-wild-horses-and-burros

FAKE: Fertility control is ineffective and costly; the BLM has run out of choices.

In Congressional hearings, Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke and Utah Rep. Chris Stewart and other proponents of killing off thousands of America’s wild horses and burros have stated that birth control doesn’t work and that PZP costs “thousands of dollars a dose.” The PZP fertility control vaccine costs $30 a dose. The longer-lasting PZP-22 vaccine costs $270 for the first injection and $30 for the second. Equine birth control has proved successful in every herd where volunteers or scientific researchers have applied the technique over time. Yet the BLM’s line item for fertility control in FY17 was zero. The Agency prefers tying up its money and staff time to plan roundups and pay millionaire helicopter contractors, in full knowledge that disruptive removals result in increased reproduction rates. Federal land managers have failed to implement key recommendations of the BLM-commissioned 2013 National Academy of Sciences study. For decades, they’ve ignored publicly proposed solutions such as: repatriating geldings and older mares in holding to emptied (zeroed out) herd areas; allowing predators to coexist on the range; supporting public-private partnerships to implement long-range fertility control programs; and raising AMLs to meaningful levels.

FAKE: Because wild horses are starving, euthanasia is a humane option.

The dictionary defines euthanasia as “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (such as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.” Yet wild horses and burros living free on the range are predominantly healthy! Permitting wholesale killing of healthy horses because of special interest pressure is not euthanasia, it is murder. The starving and overpopulating myth is a fabrication of those set on ridding the range of wild horses and wild places. In one example, the BLM circulated old photos from a Nevada herd situation it had enabled by ignoring a foretold drought and refusing to collaborate with local advocates. The BLM has never allocated forage fairly and in accord with the 1971 Act. It is not uncommon for areas emptied of mustangs and burros under the ruse of “starvation and rangeland health” to subsequently be filled with more cows and sheep.

FAKE: Wild horses are an invasive species.

Horses originated on this continent while cows and sheep did not. Their ancestral roots in North America span millions of years, far longer than the “American” bison, whose roots go back only 125,000 years. Scientific evidence demonstrating the horse biologically evolved in this environment is not credibly argued. (Questions simply remain about whether or not the continent had horses when the Spaniards arrived.) Regardless, those brought over by the Conquistadores some five centuries ago are examples of a returned native species. Like the Tahki horse of Mongolia, they are correctly understood as a successful native species reintroduction, not an hostile invasion (i.e. feral pigs). Equine physiologist Jay Kirkpatrick wrote that “the non‐native, feral, and exotic designations given by agencies are not merely reflections of their failure to understand modern science, but also a reflection of their desire to ….keep alive the conflict” between wild horses and ranchers.


5 replies »

  1. I think it’s simple, really.
    Do the aerial surveys. Do some boots on the ground walk arounds. Take some video. Take some pictures.
    Show the Public that documentation.
    It can’t be that hard. Men and women who honestly care about these animals do it all the time. They have the proof.
    They do it out of their own pockets and on their own time. If the Bureau is too cash-strapped to do the job, then ask those who do this work for the evidence.
    Stop making issues of wild horses and burros a crisis when none exists.
    And – sarcastic question:
    How is it wild horses and burros are the ONLY species living on the ranges that were not adversely affected by a five-year-long, severe drought that caused other populations of large grazers to drop?
    Rule of thumb when resources are scarce – no food, no water, no babies.
    Maybe? Wild equines didn’t get the memo, learning to exist on dust and tumbleweeds.


  2. Thank you. This is truly an #AmericanTragedy & a horrific betrayal to an icon in American history- all to satisfy certain ruthless corporations! Please keep educating, fighting and caring for these magnificent beings!


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