December 1st update on ISPMB Mustangs


I’m posting this because so many people are asking questions and want to know what’s going on.

The State Attorney in South Dakota said he’s willing to consider proposals for the situation at the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB ). This includes evidence that funding will be available to the ISPMB for the next 18 months for the organization to get on their feet. He also wants money to cover all the county’s costs of caring for the ISPMB Mustangs. For example, if the ISPMB can pay them through January 1st if he would consider granting an extension for adoptions to occur, etc. Basically in the same breath he said the county will continue forward preparing for the sale of ISPMB Mustangs at public auction because the county has a lien on the majority of the 700 ISPMB Mustangs–Not the 20% who are being allowed to be adopted in this first leg of adoption. The State Attorney’s name is Steve Aberle and his number is (605) 865-3528 .

I heard that through donations the ISPMB has been paying off the money owed to the county to feed the mustangs. Adoptions will reduce the herd size. With a reduced herd, a sustainable business plan and help with management Karen Sussman could turn this around and save Wild Horse Annie’s Legacy organization.

Why did the organizations with millions in the bank wait for this crisis to finally help the ISPMB Mustangs with some hay? Why didn’t organizations help ISPMB when the Director needed it and when she asked to avoid this crisis? Did they want her to fail?

What happened when the PZP grants for birth control studies were over around 2012? Is this when the ISPMB started to be financially challenged?

I bet it would help if the ISPMB could move to a huge ranch with grazing to lower their hay costs.Then they could graze half of the year.

The money numbers I hear from the Sheriff and from the State Attorney that are needed to stop the rest of the ISPMB Mustangs from going to sale, are different amounts. The State Attorney wants an escrow account. He claims it costs $50,000. a month to feed them hay.

It’s going to cost the county a lot of money to get the ISPMB mustangs to sale in the middle of the winter. Horses don’t sell for much at auction in South Dakota. Of course that’s what the Kill-Buyers are counting on. A wealthy PRO-SLAUGHTER activist lives in South Dakota. She arrived at ISPMB weeks ago with trailers hoping to load them up with mustangs from Wild Horse Annie’s organization. Karen Susssman kicked the slime off the property.

It appears the State Attorney has at least one proposal on the table from the newly formed Wild Horse Sanctuary Alliance who has been working with Elaine Nash according to her update. I wonder if HSUS is part of this Sanctuary Alliance too? There could be some other proposals on the table as well.

December 30th I was told that all the adoptions that were approved by Karen A. Sussman by midnight would be honored and the mustangs protected. I don’t know when adoption approval letters are going out as I’m not involved with adoption approvals. So please be patient.

For all adopters needing transportation assistance, make sure you have filled out paperwork with the Fleet of Angels ( who I believe has been receiving donations for transportation to help this rescue.

Adopters are required to pay for the Coggins and health certificates. If you are adopting a lot of ISPMB Mustangs and require financial assistance for Coggins, etc. then I encourage you to start a fundraiser on and share it with your network of family and friends.

Personally I find the lack of transparency and lack of updates with regards to this situation troubling. It creates a hotbed for Facebook rumors and drama. I hope the South Dakota State Attorney and/or the Dewey County Sheriff’s Dept. will start posting daily updates on Facebook because so many people are concerned.

I don’t want too see the Kill-Buyers get any ISPMB Mustangs and I don’t want too see any euthanized unless they are unable to heal.

I’ve received reports that the paid PRO-SLAUGHTER Trolls have been bullying adopters and spreading lies. Stand Strong for the lives of these wild horses you are protecting!

Several people have contacted me who will take the blind, special needs and old mustangs. A lot of those people turned in adoption applications.

The proposal to euthanize ISPMB Mustangs through a “compassion adoption” is outrageous and sets the wrong example for the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Congress. I hope people realize–after the tremendous effort our team leaders put out to bring in hundreds of homes for ISPMB Mustangs–that unless the wild horses are severely ill or injured people want to save their lives.

I’ve asked Fleet of Angels for the final count of the total number of ISPMB Mustangs who have offers for adoption and I look forward to the answer. I’m so thankful so many people worked so hard in the last 3 days to get adoption applications in. It’s evidence that these wild horses are wanted and deserve to live.


I’m so grateful for the outpouring of support to find homes for the ISPMB Mustangs. It’s a bit unclear what’s happening behind the scenes right now. I hope we will get updates from county officials and ISPMB in the future. Let’s see how this all plays out and pray for miracles.


For the Wild Ones,

Anne Novak

Volunteer Executive Director

Protect Mustangs

P.O. Box 5661

Berkeley, California 94705

Protect Mustangs is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of native and wild horses.

Debate rages over the use of birth control on wild horses & burros

PM WY BLM Corral small

The debate about the use of birth control on wild horses and burros is coming to the forefront.
The question looms why should current population numbers be suppressed with birth control when there are only half the number present now than in 1971 when they were first protected.

The 1971 law is explicit in saying the animals were fast disappearing from the American scene and that there should be minimal management of the animals. When population counts were done in 1974, there were nearly 50,000 animals based on a counting system that drastically undercounted the animals by today’s standards. Today we are lucky to have 30,000 animals.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), whose report was released in 2013, noted that BLM‘s management practices are facilitating high rates of population growth by holding horse populations below levels affected by food limits. “If population density were to increase to the point that there was not enough forage available, it could result in fewer pregnancies and lower young-to-female ratios and survival rates,” according to NAS.

ISPMB’s horses have held their own even with good feed conditions. An example is the Gila herd that began with 31 animals and 14 years later, they have crested to 100 animals. If these were BLM horses, this year we should have 248 horses. ISPMB’s studies have shown that the stability of the harems has led to reduced growth rates. This means that the harems should not be disrupted by removals, separating stallions from mares. We know that once that happens, the stallions lose their mares to younger stallions being released back onto the herd areas.

Bottom line is that roundups whether for removal or birth control injections causes the same problem – increase in fertility rates due to the disruption of the harems. The future for best management practices by the BLM should be in bait trapping when removals are necessary, keeping the harems intact. Even though it is more time intensive, the overall costs in removals and warehousing animals would be and would have been drastically reduced.

The argument against the use of birth control continues for the following reasons: animals would have to be treated yearly which means that the harems would be disrupted constantly. And adding to their disruption, instead of only 50-60% of the animals gathered during a usual roundup, the majority (90%) of the herds must be gathered to implement birth control. This means that there would be almost no harem that wouldn’t be disrupted! The result again, increase in fertility rates from disruption. So combating growth rates by using contraception actually increases rates!

We know that permanent infertility can happen after five years of application of the drug to the same animal. And we don’t know the far reaching effects of the long-term use of the drug on modeling behaviors for the animals or any side affects if foals were to be born to mares that have received long-term treatments.

The final and most important argument against the use of birth control is that we as human beings must select who breeds and who does not breed. In the domestic horse industry, we have failed miserably as breeders of horses. One can easily point to the Quarter Horse Industry where the average age of soundness is seven years, the age of a horse just entering its prime of life. That means at age 8 and older, horses are breaking down due to having too much weight on legs that can’t support the weight. Nature has provided the best breeding program available for wild horses and that being “survival of the fittest.” One just has to look at the legs of a wild horse compared to any other breed of horse. And we know they are generally healthier and happier.

If BLM were to manage wild horses by not disturbing them, they would do more to hold down birth rates in the long run. Removal of “excess” wild horses/burros should only be done by bait trapping to ensure that wild horses and burros truly remain wild. Sadly, instead of feasible minimal management, we now are at maximal intrusive management.

(Note: ISPMB does not discourage the use of birth control in sanctuary settings where horses live together in families and will never breed again.)

Cross-posted from:

Study shows wild horse herds with functional social structures contribute to low herd growth compared to BLM managed herds

© Novak


International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB)

As we complete our thirteenth year in studying the White Sands and Gila herds, two isolated herds, which live in similar habitat but represent two different horse cultures, have demonstrated much lower reproductive rates than BLM managed herds.  Maintaining the “herd integrity” with a hands off management strategy (“minimal feasible management”) and no removals in 13 years has shown us that functional herds demonstrating strong social bonds and leadership of elder animals is key to the behavioral management of population growth.

ISPMB’s president, Karen Sussman, who has monitored and studied The Society’s four wild herds all these years explains, “We would ascertain from our data that due to BLM’s constant roundups causing the continual disruption of the very intricate social structures of the harem bands has allowed younger stallions to take over losing the mentorship of the older wiser stallions.

In simplistic terms Sussman makes the analogy that over time Harvard professors (elder wiser stallions) have been replaced by errant teenagers (younger bachelor stallions).  We know that generally teenagers do not make good parents because they are children themselves.

Sussman’s observations of her two stable herds show that there is tremendous respect commanded amongst the harems.  Bachelor stallions learn that respect from their natal harems.  Bachelors usually don’t take their own harems until they are ten years of age.  Sussman has observed that stallions mature emotionally at much slower rates than mares and at age ten they appear ready to assume the awesome responsibility of becoming a harem stallion.

Also observed in these herds is the length of time that fillies remain with their natal bands.  The fillies leave when they are bred by an outside stallion at the age of four or five years.  Often as first time mothers, they do quite well with their foals but foal mortality is higher than with seasoned mothers.

Sussman has also observed in her Gila herd where the harems work together for the good of the entire herd.  “Seeing this cooperative effort is quite exciting,” states Sussman.

ISPMB’s third herd, the Catnips, coming from the Sheldon Wildlife Range where efforts are underway to eliminate all horses on the refuge, demonstrate exactly the reverse of the organization’s two stable herds.

The first year of their arrival (2004) their fertility rates were 30% the following first and second years. They have loose band formations and some mares are without any harem stallions.  Stallions are observed breeding fillies as young as one year of age.  Foal mortality is very high in this herd.  Generally there is a lack of leadership and wisdom noted in the stallions as most of them were not older than ten years of age when they arrived.  In 2007, a decision to use PZP on this herd, a contraceptive, was employed by ISPMB.  This herd remains a very interesting herd to study over time according to Sussman.   “The question is, can a dysfunctional herd become functional,” says Sussman who speculates that the Catnips emulate many of the public lands herds.

In 1992 when Sussman and her colleague, Mary Ann Simonds, served on the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, they believed that BLM’s management should change and recommended that selective removals should begin by turning back all the older and wiser animals to retain the herd wisdom.  Sussman realizes that the missing ingredient was to stop the destruction of the harem bands caused by helicopter roundups where stallions are separated from their mares.  “Instead, bait and water trapping, band by band, needed to be instituted immediately,” says Sussman.  Had this been done for the past twenty years, we would have functionally healthy horses who have stable reproductive rates and we wouldn’t have had 52,000 wild horses in holding pastures today.   BLM’s selective removal policy was to return all horses over the age of five.  When the stallions and mares were released back to their herd management areas by the BLM, younger stallions under the age of ten fought for the mares and took mares from the older wiser stallions.  This occurs when there is chaos happening in a herd such as roundups cause.

Sussman also believes that when roundups happen often the younger stallions aged 6-9 are ones that evade capture.  This again contributes to younger stallions taking the place of older wiser stallions that remain with their mares and do not evade capture.  She is advocating that the BLM carry out two studies: determining the age of fillies who are pregnant and determining age structures of stallions after removals.

Currently Sussman is developing criteria to determine whether bands are behaviorally healthy or not.  This could be instituted easily in observation of public lands horses.

Taken from BLM’s website:  “Because of federal protection and a lack of natural predators, wild horse and burro herds can double in size about every four years.”

White Sands Herd Growth: 1999-2013 – 165 animals.

BLM’s assertion herds double every four years means there should be 980 horses or more than five times the growth of ISPMB’s White Sands herd.

Gila Herd Growth:1999-2013- 100 animals.

BLM’s assertion herds double every four years means there should be 434 horses or nearly four times the growth of ISPMB’s Gila herd.

Sussman says that BLM’s assertion as to why horse herds double every four years is incorrect. The two reasons given are federal protection of wild horse herds and lack of natural predators. ISPMB herds are also protected and also have no natural predators, but they do not reproduce exponentially. She adds that exponential wild horse population growth on BLM lands must have another cause, and the most likely cause is lack of management and understanding of wild horses as wildlife species.  Instead BLM manages horses like livestock. “According to the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971, all management of wild horse populations was to be at the ‘minimal feasible level’,” Sussman says. “When the BLM’s heavy-handed disruption and destruction of wild horse social structures is the chief contributing factor in creating population growth five times greater than normal, than the BLM interference can hardly be at a ‘minimal feasible level.’”

Sussman concludes that ISPMB herds are given the greatest opportunity for survival, compared to the BLM’s herds which are not monitored throughout the year.  “One would assume,” Sussman says, “herds that are well taken care of and monitored closely would have a greater survival rate.  Yet, even under the optimum conditions of ISPMB herds, they still did not increase nearly 500% like BLM herds.”

Karen Sussman has been riding horses since the age of four.  She has spent the last thirty-two years working with wild horses and burros and has been involved in every aspect of the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro program including: assisting in the development of a consistent training program for the prison training program, development of a volunteer compliance program for adopted wild horses and burros, a catalyst for the increasing fines from $2,000 to $100,000 for the death of wild horses or burros, monitoring fee-waivered animals in Montana.  Sussman received the prestigious Health of the Land Award serving on the BLM’s Black Mountain Eco-team developing a gold-standard model for managing wild burros.  She served on the National Wild Horse and Advisory Board in 1990-92

Wild Horse Annie’s foundation in dire straights

Lantry, SD.

Near unprecedented drought in South Dakota has placed the historic International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB) in an emergency situation. There has been virtually no snow, there is virtually no grass growing and ISPMB is having to actually import hay from Canada at huge expense to feed their herd of about 100 Virginia Range mustangs.


Karen Sussman has two priorities. The first is to be able to continue to feed the horses in the preserve. A donor who had indicated that he was shipping truckloads of western hay to the preserve failed to come through. As a result, ISPMB is still having to raise funds to purchase Canadian hay.

The second priority is to reduce the herd by placing horses with other groups and responsible individuals. Karen is very reluctant to adopt horses locally due to their proximity to Canadian slaughterhouses.

Many of the horses are nice looking and are relatively friendly. If you or your group could help by accepting a few of these horses and/or assisting with hay expenses, please contact the ISPMB at or telephone 605-964-6866.

Historically the ISPMB has helped other groups with placing horses and now they need our help.



Footnote: This “problem” has developed into a full blown emergency. Additional anticipated snow did not fall and ISPMB has to relocate their horses by the end of March! Calling all advocates! This emergency will require a “team” response to be resolved.

PO Box 55
Lantry, SD 57636-0055