As BLM moves to sterilize wild mares, Forest Service may drop sterilization from plan

/ In The News, News
Wild horses at Big Summit Wild Horse Territory in Oregon. USFS photo.

The U.S. Forest Service announced last week that it was leaning toward dropping the surgical sterilization of wild mares from its updated plan for the Big Summit Wild Horse Territory in Crook County, Ore.

In a draft decision released last week, Ochoco National Forest Supervisor A. Shane Jeffries said that he was removing both surgical sterilization and sex-ratio skewing from his selected management plan alternative, based on public comment.

RTF supports the use of safe, proven and humane fertility control as a way to reduce calls for roundups and removals. RTF strongly opposes the dangerous, inhumane and costly surgical sterilization of wild mares and burro jennies.

Elsewhere, the Bureau of Land Management still plans to surgically sterilize “about 17” mares sometime after the completion of a roundup to be held on the Confusion Herd Management Area in Utah starting Nov. 29. That, despite the vocal opposition of RTF and other advocates and a letter signed by 58 members ofCongress urging BLM to drop the sterilization plan.

Ochoco National Forest would focus on removals and implementing fertility control, instead.

The Forest Serviced estimated Big Summit’s population of wild horses at 135 in 2018. Its agency-designated “Appropriate Management Level” is 12 to 57 horses. It plans to maintain a number “within the high end” of AML on the 25,434-acre territory.

In addition to other wildlife, wild horses share the Big Summit Wild Horse Territory with as many as 2,200 ewe-lamb pairs grazed seasonally.

RTF opposes sex-ratio skewing, as had been proposed for the Big Summit Wild Horse Territory, for these reasons: (1) management of populations via sex skewing is temporary (populations return to their normal ratios), and (2) healthy populations rely on whatever the norms are in terms of that population’s demographics – adjusting a population of wild horses to skew for more or less of anything does not attain a natural state for that population, with behavior ramifications that are not yet understood (potential heightened aggression in stallions, for example).

Read the Forest Service’s planning documents.

Donate to RTF’s Wild Horse Defense Fund