America’s wild horses are not only struggling to find food and water across the drought-stricken western plains, but are now running for their lives.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), one of the agencies responsible for protecting and managing the wild horses, announced they are conducting “emergency roundups” and plan to remove an additional 6,000 wild horses due to severe drought conditions in the West.
A total of 18,000 horses and burros will be captured across 10 western states, which is a 50% increase over last year.
BLM estimates that 86,000 horses and burros are on the range, with roughly half living in Nevada. They claim the current number is three times the amount the public lands can sustain.
The bureau states they plan on “continuing our efforts to reduce overpopulation across the West and achieve healthy, sustainable herd sizes that are more capable of withstanding severe conditions, including prolonged drought, which are becoming more frequent due to climate change.”
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Wild horse advocates believe the roundups benefit ranchers who graze their livestock on the same public land, not the mustangs.
“Profit-driven interests ravage the landscape, and we blame the horse,” Laura Leigh, president of the nonprofit group Wild Horse Education, told the Associated Press.
With no rain in sight and water becoming scarce in some areas, ranchers have reportedly reduced their herds as well.
Another problem is the method BLM uses to capture the iconic and federally protected animals.
Helicopters are used to chase the terrified wild horses and drive them into holding corrals. The mustangs take off at a full gallop to try and escape as the helicopters swoop down dangerously close to the herd. Foals are left behind as they cannot keep up and frantic whinnies are heard over the sound of helicopter propellers.
Agents on horseback either rope or chase in the foals, adding to the horrific capture.
The captured horses attempt to escape and some sustain serious injuries and must be euthanized.
Watch the heartbreaking video below to see what wild horse roundups are really like.
The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) states this method is not only cruel but ineffective. Scientists have found the annual roundups result in the remaining horses breeding more through a phenomenon called compensatory reproduction.
But there is a better way to control the herd populations.
The PZP immunocontraceptive vaccine is a humane and scientifically proven way to reduce the number of wild horses, but it is “vastly underutilized.”
The vaccine is administered through a dart that is shot into the horse’s hip. It works by preventing pregnancy “via an immune response that does not affect the horse’s hormonal system,” claims AWHC.
It is successfully being used to manage wild horse populations in the Assateague Island National Seashore.
Return To Freedom (RTF), another wild horse conservation organization, agrees that the fertility control program is the best solution and one BLM should have implemented years ago.
“The agency has resisted creating an infrastructure and a culture that could have made a sustainable and effective fertility control program possible. It has rounded up horses year after year while waiting for longer-acting vaccines instead of using the safe, proven and humane fertility control that’s available right now. These sensitive habitats are vulnerable to drought and, knowing this, a national land management agency tasked with the preservation and protection of our wild horses should have been prepared long ago and in a much better position today,” posted Neda DeMayo, president of RTF.
Captured horses are kept in holding corrals across the U.S. until they are adopted. In an attempt to encourage people to adopt, the government offers $1,000 cash to anyone who adopts a mustang through their Adoption Incentive Program, but the program is flawed.
The program is now being reformed to reduce the chances of the wild horses ending up in slaughterhouses. BLM Deputy Director for Programs Nada Wolff Culver said, “While the vast majority of adopters already adhere to our requirements to provide a good and caring home, the BLM is now taking additional steps to secure the health and safety of adopted animals. We will begin to make additional compliance visits post-adoption, bring more scrutiny to potential adopters, and increase warnings to sale barns about the risks of illegally selling wild horses and burros, among other steps.”
These majestic animals who are “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West” deserve better. AWHC will continue to fight for wild horses, will you?
Sign the petition below to take a stand for wild horses.
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