A dark day for native wild horses ~ National Academy of Science Report published

Photo courtesy BLM

Photo courtesy BLM

The NAS report has been released and is found here.


Statement from Anne Novak, Executive Director of Protect Mustangs

We are grateful that the National Academy of Science (NAS) recommends stopping cruel roundups  but we challenge their decision to control alleged overpopulation like a domestic herd with humans deciding who survives and breeds.

NAS deploys the BLM overpopulation myth to push EPA restricted use PESTICIDES (Immunoconraceptive PZP & GonaCon®) as well as sterilization on Native #WildHorses.

This is part of the plan named after Ken Salazar, the previous Secretary of Interior, whose mission was to wipe wild horses off public land, stockpile them at taxpayer expense and send many into the alleged slaughter pipeline.

The Salazar Plan began in 2009 -10, despite public outrage. Its focus was to remove wild horses and burros to facilitate the energy and water grab on public land.

The renewables market abroad is hot. Fracking and exporting natural gas through pipelines across the West is causing environmental damage. Wild horses would require mitigation so they lobbied for the BLM to get rid of them.

The Salazar Plan feigns an overpopulation crisis to remove most native wild horses from their legally designated ranges and stockpile them in government holding. They are torn from their homes, families and at risk of being sold to probable slaughter.

Overpopulation is a MYTH used to ruin native wild horses. There are maybe 18,000 wild horses left on more than 31.6 million acres of public land designated for their use. They are reproducing at a higher rate because nature knows they face extinction from the gluttony of roundups since 2009. Immunocontraceptives are risky. Sterilizing them is wrong. Put the 50,000 in holding back on the range so they can fill their niche in the ecosystem.

We are witnessing the final attack on the indigenous horse and it must be halted.

Man-made fertility control will domesticate wild horses and wipe them out. Survival of the fittest is Mother Nature’s way to select who breeds to protect the herd.

Domestic horses are manipulated by man. Their weaknesses are evident as a result.

We ask the NAS, the BLM and certain members of the advocate community, “Do you really think man can choose who breeds better than nature? Do you realize that by supporting chemical fertility control many will be sterilized and loose their place in the herd?”  What happens when they all die off?  Will you then realize they were never overpopulated?”

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Statement from Jesica Johnston, MA Environmental Planning

The National Academy of Science’s findings clearly state that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has failed to provide accurate estimates of the nation’s population of wild horses and burros. Therefore, the NAS cannot conclude that a state of over-population exists and or provide a recommendation for artificial management considerations such as “rigorous fertility controls” to control populations for which the complex population dynamics are currently unknown. However, the NAS is recommending science-based methods to improve current management practices, population estimates, and the overall health of the ecosystem which could provide key information toward sustainable and effective management that could prevent the removal of wild horses and burros from our public lands.

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Dead wild horse (Photo © Craig Downer)

Dead wild horse (Photo © Craig Downer)

Statement from Craig C. Downer, M.S., Wildlife Biologist, Wild Horse Expert, Author and Founder of the Andean Tapir Fund

BLM plans to use “aggressive birth control” to prevent the expansion of the wild horse/burro populations that remain. Chief among the drugs to be used is PZP (porcine zona pellucida). This injected drug covers the eggs, or ova, of mares, preventing sperm from fertilizing them. It is experimental, however, and has some questionable effects upon the horses themselves, both individually and collectively. For example, its effect leads to mares’ repeatedly recycling into estrous, thus stimulating stallions to repeatedly mount the treated mares — all to no avail. This frustrating situation causes much stress among individuals of both sexes and a general disruption of the social order, both within bands and, as a consequence, within the herds themselves.

Other unintended consequences of PZP are out-of-season births occurring after PZP’s effect has worn off after a year or two.  These births have been observed during the colder late autumn and winter seasons (e.g. Pryor Mountains her by G. Kathrens) and their un-timeliness causes suffering and death among both foals and their mothers.

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The underside of a skull, showing palate and teeth, of Equus scotti is seen in this photo provided by the San Bernardino County Museum. The remains of the Ice Age horse were found for the first time at Tule Springs in Nevada.

The underside of a skull, showing palate and teeth, of Equus scotti is seen in this photo provided by the San Bernardino County Museum. The remains of the Ice Age horse were found for the first time at Tule Springs in Nevada.

Statement from Debbie Coffey, Director of Wild Horse Affairs, Wild Horse Freedom Federation

PZP and other fertility control should NOT be used on non-viable herds.   Most of the remaining herds of wild horses are non-viable.  The NAS and any advocacy groups that are pushing PZP and other fertility control have not carefully studied all of the caveats in Dr. Gus Cothran’s genetic analysis reports along with the remaining population of each herd of wild horses.
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By U.S. Government [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By U.S. Government [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Statement from Jennie Barron, Director of Wild Horse Hub Central

1. Wild horse mares that are darted with PZP can become permanently sterile, making the viability of the herd impossible as the older mares die, there are no mares to have foals.

2.  If the Lead Mares are darted with PZP, they can become sterile, making the family herd disorganized; the stallion does not understand why she won’t foal; and she may leave the family herd she knows because of the disorientated. This has happened with older mares as they are not able to foal and they are the lead mares, leaving no mare to teach them where to graze, find minerals, water, or when to do certain things that wild horse herd families do.

3.  The mares who are pregnant after they have been darted with PZP can and do foal out of season. This means that they can not keep enough milk for the foal; and the winter weather is too harsh for the foal to survive. Prognosis: death.

4.  Considering the consequences stated above, this is too risky a business to lay at the feet of an already depleted wild horse herd. It must be taken into consideration that PZP is just as dangerous as a mountain lion, it is permanent, and it is deadly.

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(Photo © Anne Novak, all rights reserved.)

(Photo © Anne Novak, all rights reserved.)

Statement from Carl Mrozek, Filmmaker of Saving Ass in America

To its credit the extensive review of the BLM’s failed Wild Horse & Burro Program criticized the agency for relying primarily on aggressive culling of wild herds primarily via helicopter roundups which “perpetuate the overpopulation problem by maintaining the number of animals at levels below the carrying capacity of the land, protecting the rangeland and the horse population in the short term but resulting in continually high population growth and exacerbating the long-term problem” the National Academy of Sciences” declared in a preliminary press release.  What they’re referring to is the principle of compensatory reproduction by heavily-stressed wildlife populations needing to rebound from population declines due to many factors.

Unfortunately, they quickly recommend a different intervention as a better solution without considering the ‘ do nothing”  or ‘placebo’ option which is an integral component of every credible field trial for pharmaceutical and other ‘treatment plans. Had they searched for examples of herds which have undergone minimal or no culling in the past decade or so, they would have found multiple examples of herds which appear to have achieved homeostasis (equilibrium) or something approaching it, naturally, i.e. without BLM-sponsored roundups or fertility treatments.

At least two mustang herds I’ve observed and filmed in Nevada and Arizona over the past 5-7 years meet those criteria, and some burro herds as well. The important point to remember, is that all of those herds cost the taxpayer virtually zilch to maintain in the wild. This contrasts with the cash-intensive hands-on management strategy revolving around helicopter roundups, warehousing of captured animals for life in long term and short term corrals and feedlots, as well as the fertility treatments, -the least costly and disruptive of these predominant management methodologies.

The bottom line is that sometimes we can do more, and do better, by doing less, or by letting Mother Nature do what she does best: sow and weed.

Hopefully, this option is explored somewhere in the freshly released report, and will be actively considered by the new hierarchy at BLM and the Dept. of Interior, and with much more intensive collaboration with wild equine afiscionados  committed to the survival of these herds in the wild as intended by the Free Ranging Wild Horse & Burro Act of 1971.

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PM Hazard Foter Public domain Marked Sterilize


Statement from  Jaime Jackson, Executive Director and the founder of the Association for the Advancement of Natural Horse Care Practices

“Whether wild horses are sterilized or chemically “contraceptized”, at stake are the forces of natural selection being usurped by what will be tantamount to a program of “domestication eugenics” — humans determining who gets to breed and who doesn’t in wild horse country. If that door is opened, we will have turned drug companies and profiteers loose on our wild horses. We now know with certainty that such veterinary/medical interventions cause laminitis, colic, and other types of metabolic breakdown and disease. More drugs will then be needed. Thus, more profits will be pocketed. A brutal cycle is unleashed that causes harm to any horse, wild or domesticated.

“…What we are talking about here is the de facto domestication and subsequent contamination and destruction of America’s wild, free-roaming horses. It is bad enough what we’re also doing to another 51,000 who are captured, and stand idly by at tax payers expense in government holding corrals and private “preserves”? Support the misguided’s push to turn wild horses into pathological parodies of their personal horses? No thanks!

“The AANHCP offers another vision for genuine wild horse preservation that clear thinking people should be able to understand. This vision will do all things that eugenics can never do. And humanely so without compromising natural selection or burdening the tax payer. So, if you really want to help our wild horses, say no to the Obama Administration and the National Academy of Science’s “zero them out” for the corporate land grab, say no to [any] eugenics visions, and no to the drug companies and PZP (and other) pharmaceutical patent holders hungering for the ovaries, testes, and DNA of our America’s wild, free-roaming horses in the name of profiteering at the animal’s genetic expense.

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Sam (#3275) is from California's High Rock area (Photo by BLM)

Sam (#3275) is from California’s High Rock area (Photo by BLM)

Statement from Valerie Price, Biological Researcher

PZP is a pathogen derived immunocontraceptive vaccine, it SHOULD be intended for use ONLY in captive animals. PZP stands for Porcine Zona Pellucida. This, and other immunocontraceptive vaccines are derived from pathogenic bacterias. PZP contains Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the organism that causes tuberculosis in humans and many species of livestock, including cattle. The bacterial component of the vaccine is supposed to be a killed form, but due to the potential for bad lots causing live tuberculosis to be transmitted to humans and animals, and due to concern over the possibility of contaminating the food web, PZP would have been unlikely to recieve approval by the FDA. Instead, the EPA approved PZP as a pesticide, leaving public health professionals in ignorance of the biological nature of this vaccine. It remains unclear whether the restrictions for use allow for any PZP treated animals to be released into the wild. While such a release could pose an ongoing threat to public health for both humans and animals, the effectiveness of PZP as an immunocontraceptive vaccine is negated by only 10% immigration or emmigration into treated herds, according to a study conducted by Texas Parks and Wildlife with captive, white tail deer.

A recent clinical study in cats treated with PZP found a high percentage of injection site abscesses. Rumours of abscesses occurring in horses treated with PZP by the BLM has raised the spectre of possible bad lots of vaccine already having been used. Human exposure to tuberculosis could possibly be a concern and it is recommended that all BLM agents and equine advocates who have come in contact with the vaccine, or with treated animals, be tested for tuberculosis, to ensure the bio-security of the public.

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PM Gov Land Map.jpg.jpe

Statement from Lisa LeBlanc, Independent Researcher & Equine Advocate:
We can not depend on ‘estimates’ of on-the-range populations or the accuracy of ‘reports’ of nearly 50,000 in captivity; neither history nor biology support the Bureau’s claims. There is a supposition that wild equine advocates have no notion of the enormity of wild or captive wild populations due to a ‘sympathetic’ response, but we can only base our data on the information we’re given, and the knowledge we already possess. For example:

Absence of any data indicating mortality, either on-the-range or in holding.

Denial of ‘reciprocal’ breeding, that is, the animal’s biological imperative to replace what’s been taken.

Absence of knowledge of specific herds and their behaviors, key factors in determining accuracy of foaling rates, which often fall far below the National average of 20%.

On-the-range herd management must be as accurate as possible, visually documented for Public use and managed through science and study. How can effective management occur if the basis of all aspects is ‘estimate’?

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Check back for more statements from wild horse and burro influencers. We are updating this page.


12 thoughts on “A dark day for native wild horses ~ National Academy of Science Report published

  1. The BLM wild horse “management” program is NOT management. It is an eradication plan, to benefit the cattle industry. These wild, NATIVE horses are innocent victims in this greedy scheme. The horse are on PUBLIC lands. The BLM has been wasting PUBLIC funds (aka OUR tax dollars) on this outrageous activity that does NOT benefit the public; it only benefits the cattle industry. As a taxpayer, I am increasingly angered by the waste of public funds. It has already been proven that the BLM does not have enough space in the holding facilities for these horses and is hemorrhaging money by the day. These ineffective, cruel roundups need to stop NOW. Stop giving my tax dollars dollars to the cattle industry. BLM, do your job and serve the PUBLIC!

  2. I’m just so sad and disheartened. Stand up, America. For once, why can’t our country (government) do what’s right, rather than cater to special interests and the almighty dollar? The wild herds of Africa are being slaughtered at an alarming rate to poachers and funding militants’ war chests. Are we in the US any different? All that made Americans so proud of our heritage are being rounded up, shot, trapped and slaughtered so that soon our children will only see the destruction we’ve created and wonder what our country used to be like once long ago.

  3. This is just another way for the BLM to eradicate Americas wild horses. Once again it comes down to money. Our wild horses are competing with rich cattle ranchers who want them off the land and oil companies. This will never change unless we the people fight back for an animal that has, and still is fighting in our battles. Wake up America and stop sleep walking in your lives.

  4. Yes, I heard about this in a discussion last night. The assumption still remains, unless or until proven otherwise, that horses are not native/indigenous to America; therefore, must be eliminated as a non-indigenous species on America’s Public Lands. This, as we know, is bullshit. But until we can prove differently, and there are two different research groups attempting currently to do this, the facts remains negative for wild horse herds. This is the very premise of the ongoing situation of roundups and ridding Public Lands of Wild Horse Herds, and certainly must not be overlooked any longer — as it is leading toward an extinction of a very significant Horse Species, to say the least.

  5. As a comparative study to the long term PZP studies, I would like to see a “control group” followed to closely document the natural birth and mortality rate within wild horse herds. Recognizing the role of natural predators and factors of age with in the dynamics of the population. This group would also need to live in an area that is not occupied by livestock that would impact range condition, but would take into consideration the natural cycles of weather on the range. The completion of a study of this nature would be insightful into natural birth/mortality, (natural selection), but would also be instructive into long term band/herd dynamics.

  6. What a sack of b.s.

    How in the world can they be populating out of control? Liers. So, put back the 40,000 something horses that have been pulled off then, if they are worried that the foliage is too good. Unbelievable……………………………….

  7. This is all extremely disheartening. The wild horses and burros of North America belong here and are part of this continent’s biological and cultural heritage. The wholesale eradication program to remove these magnificent animals from our/my public lands is is merely collusion between the commercial ranching and energy industries, and the government who always bends over backwards to placate such narrow, questionable, and selfish interests. I do not approve of my tax dollars being used for such nefarious and cruel purposes. For starters, I urge everyone to boycott the beef/cattle industry and show them that we mean business!

    Stop the roundups! Stop the slaughter! Stop the eugenics de-population program. Ban/stop the use of toxic pesticides on our public lands!

    The wild horses are the only ones in this entire mix that have legal rights to these lands. The energy lobbyist dont, Exxon or BP (or whomever is so fracking happy) does not, the cattle ranchers do not…

    My public lands, My sacred wild horses, My tax money being used to annihilate them…don’t I get a chance to vote, say what happens here. Doesn’t the entire American public get a voice here?
    The BLM are nothing but liars, cheats and on the sales block to the highest bidder… the horses are not corrupt or greed mongering killers to they are being brutally rounded up and packed into holding pens then squeezed into tractor trailers and shipped off to death. Holocaust anyone? And why is the BLM allowed to get away with this, how high up the ladder does the this corrupt cesspool go?
    Enough really is Enough! This travesty must end. How? When? Before the irreplaceable lineages of wild horses are all gone? For all of our souls, I sure hope not!

  9. they are not bothering to consider the impact on the herds because the presence or absence of the herds is deemed a PR problem only; It is only by revealing the existing science which shows amply that the range needs the horses as much as the horses need the range will we be able to save them and return them to there rightful.

  10. The 50,000 wild horses in lth should immediately be returned to the range. The estimated few that remain should never be subjected to pesticide birth control practices. The BLM is the most corrupt gov’t agency which exists today, right next to the disgraced IRS. I am sick to death of the myth that wild horses need to be managed. THERE IS NO NEED FOR WILD HORSE MANAGEMENT. End the roundups now. Allow the few remaining wild horses a chance to live wild and free, our national treasure is at stake. Cut the BLM budget at least by half and reel ’em in!

  11. The Shackleford Banks wild horse herd at Cape Lookout in North Carolina are being maintained at a number between 120 and 130. Half of the mares in the herd are treated with PZP. Half of the mares are not treated with PZP. After each foal is born, a sample of the foals DNA is taken from a fedal sample to determine which sire and dam the foal descends from. The goal is to maintain a genetic balance among all the different mare and stallions on the island. If one genetic line becomes more represented than the others, that foal will be chosen to leave the herd and offered for adoption. The emphasis is on maitaining a balance of genetic variability. This historic herd is in a unuque situation as the only grazing animals on their island. They are a model for studying the impacts of the horses on the ecosystem and the ecosystem on the horses. Duke University, Princeton, NC State University, East Carolina University and others carry out a number of different studies on various processes in this ecosystem.

    There are different kinds of PZP. There is native and non-native PZP. Dr. Kirkpatrick uses native PZP and this was tested for 20 years before being used on the Assateague Island wild horses.

    I agree that herds below genetic viability should not be treated with PZP. I also believe that the only herds that should be treated are the ones where there are people trained to follow scientific protocol and keep accurate records of the which mares have given birth, record DNA, etc. There are questions about the ordinary data that the BLM is supposed to keep up. I am not at all certain that the BLM has the right attitude, as an institution, to do the job they are asked to do in the manner they are asked to do it.

    However, I believe that the use of PZP is preferable to either castrations or ovariectomies.

  12. The report stated the 15-20% increase in the reproduction rate was caused by the roundups (removals) so it seems by just stopping the removals the rate will decrease and birth control would not be necessary. The reason the rate increased was to try to stop the wild horses’ extinction . Birth control will only cause the destruction of the wild horses’ complex society and result in even less than the 18-22,000 still free in all the West. They ought to be on the endangered species list.
    With 70% of the herds no longer genetically viable and sustainable why is population control even being considered? Also why weren’t the issues of over-grazing by the millions of cattle and all the extraction of oil, gas and coal considered? Was it because BLM furnished the panel will all the information? I am surprised the panel did as well as they did considering everything. Now all roundups and removals and the BLM’s “managing for extinction” must be stopped immediately. Return the 50,000 wild horses and burros in holding to the 27 million legal acres taken from them.

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