Horse News

Opinion: Coyotes and Wild Horses

Lots in Common

Coyote in Fish Lake Valley Nevada (by Dyer) – photo: Don Molde

What do coyotes and wild horses have in common in Nevada?

Both make the news more than any other animal or wildlife species in the state.  Both suffer from the lack of a successful coexistence strategy with us, and are themselves blamed for that failure. Detractors claim they are non-native invasive species.

Wayne Pacelle, President of Animal Wellness Action, and long-time wildlife and domestic animal advocate has written persuasively about shortcomings of wild horse management by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In his view, one of the biggest mistakes made by the BLM is to manage wild horses as though they are cattle…by using roundups

Different from domestic livestock, wild horses have a well-known genetically determined social structure, i.e., a stable band with a lead stallion, lead mare, non-breeding subadult females, and other social mechanisms allowing wild horses to self-manage within their environment including limiting population growth.

Under preferred conditions, only the lead mare becomes pregnant.  Subadult females help raise the foals and maintain band structure. Individual bands tend to repel each other, maintaining distance and motion through their environment.

BLM’s documented Helicopter Stampede tormenting native wild horses ~ photo by Terry Fitch

A partial roundup…. a large incomplete random (non-selective) gathering of horses (often by helicopter) … mindlessly destroys existing band structures and removes other stabilizing influences that the band structure provides.

The predictable result is that fertility rates increase for at least two reasons:  subadult females are available to breed; forage conditions for remaining horses improve (so-called compensatory adjustment) enhancing herd fertility.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) currently has no interest, plan, or strategy for dealing with coyotes. The animal is unclassified (without protection) by law, meaning it can be killed anytime by any means in a random unplanned fashion, resembling….in a strange way…. the random, non-selective wild horse roundups by BLM contractors.

Coyotes have a genetic preference for a pack structure. The alpha male and alpha female mate for life. (They are monogamous.) Only the alpha female breeds.  Subadult females within the pack help raise pups and serve other duties to keep the pack together.  Juveniles leave the pack at a certain point to seek new home ranges and establish their own packs.

When coyotes are randomly and/or intensively killed by trappers, ill-spirited individuals, or management agencies (e.g., USDA/APHIS/Wildlife Services), the pack structure is destroyed. The built-in social constraints limiting sub-adult female fertility are removed and coyote population dynamics change dramatically…(CONTINUED)

4 replies »

  1. In other words, the “agencies” are continuing to use the same strategies (half-baked ideas off the top of heads) to keep slaughtering native wild animals exactly the same as was done hundreds of years ago – no knowledge whatsoever, no science at all – just fear & hatred towards any creature that happens to get in their way OR prevents them from doing what they want. Nothing changes. The exact same attitudes & beliefs prevail just like they did when Europeans came here – it started with native people & continued right to today while we the “dominant species” (!) destroy the very earth we live on. But hey thats ok – we can move to mars or the moon & start over, right? Look around us – isnt that the same as denying there is a virus or that it behooves all of us to get the vaccine?
    I am so beyond listening and watching this – can you tell?

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  2. Can you understand why the human believes his power and will should not be questioned?

    Can you understand why humans exercise their power over everything on Earth?

    Unfortunately, humans often forget to be humane. Even more often, animals are the subject of our extremely brutal acts.

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  3. Interesting point of view, but a few points make little sense to me, and I find the comparison of a creature widely considered a pest and legally killed “varmint” with our wild horses and burros more than a bit misleading, and perhaps dangerous. Whatever your opinions, coyotes are essentially uncontrolled pest predators, our wild horses and burros are as opposite this as can be imagined.

    1. “Both suffer from the lack of a successful coexistence strategy with us, and are themselves blamed for that failure.”
    Wild Horses and Burros are protected by public demand and federal law, for the past 50 years. They are prey animals, not predators, so by nature do not inflict harm on others other than accidentally, they kill no livestock or pets, and as far as anyone knows they don’t carry deadly diseases into human settlements. They are also generally confined by restricting access to forage and water, something not achievable with coyotes. Not to mention the reproductive capacity of a mare is only rarely twins, and mares by nature abort easily — something far different than coyotes. Since we are the “managers” of both species it is a curious argument to suggest they lack a coexistence strategy with us; the reverse is more the true point.

    2. “Under preferred conditions, only the lead mare becomes pregnant. Subadult females help raise the foals and maintain band structure. Individual bands tend to repel each other, maintaining distance and motion through their environment.”
    This claim is patently false; multiple (and typically most) adult mares achieve pregnancy in a given year. Under extremely adverse conditions (not “preferred”) thin and older mares may not have the capacity to carry a foal to term but their bodies will generally conceive. It’s also not exactly true that given bands repel each other; indeed the intermixing of bands is key to genetic diversity in entire herds. They keep a certain distance but it is expected they will mingle at waterholes and elsewhere, and while it is widely documented that bachelor bands tend to keep to themselves, it is also true that bachelors by nature will eventually challenge a herd sire (often multiple times) to win a mare or harem of their own. Thus it is a genetic and behavioral necessity that the boundaries between family units is fluid and flexible, and requires intermingling, not repellancy, for the overall sustainability of the species.

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