The Bureau of Land Management last week released 133 mares treated with GonaCon fertility control back onto the Nevada Wild Horse Range Herd Management Area in Nye County, Nev.
While RTF supports the use of safe, proven and humane fertility control to slow (not stop) population growth to halt roundups, it does have concerns about GonaCon. Because GonaCon affects the hormone system, it may cause behavioral changes that would alter herd dynamics. Because it has not been used and researched for as long as PZP vaccines have, RTF believes more studies are needed to ensure that GonaCon meets the parameters of ethical and thoughtful wildlife fertility control.
The mares were among 638 wild horses in a helicopter roundup that ended Jan. 3. The BLM also released 62 stallions back onto their home range, according to BLM’s gather report.
A total of 432 wild horses and 91 burros were removed from the range. Eleven wild horses were killed during the roundup, 10 for “pre-existing / chronic” conditions, eight of which were listed as clubfoot, and one from an unspecified “sudden / acute injury.”
BLM set out to:
–Capture 648 wild horses and 100 burros;
–Remove 438 “excess” wild horses and 100 burros from their home range;
–Treat 150 mares with fertility control and release them back onto the range with 60 studs.
The agency said in a press release that the roundup is being conducted to “reduce overpopulation” and bring the herd size “more in line with what the resources of the area can support.”
The 1.3 million-acre Herd Management Area is located in the southern Mojave Desert on the Nevada Test and Training Range, one of two training areas within the Nellis Air Force Base Complex. It has a BLM-set “Appropriate Management Level” of 300-500 wild horses and 0 burros.
As of March 2021, the BLM estimated the population on the Herd Management Area at 736 wild horses and 95 wild burros, not including foals born this year.
No livestock grazing has been conducted on the Herd Management Area “since before the 1960s,” according to BLM.
Wild horses removed from the range were to be transported to the Palomino Valley Off-Range Wild Horse and Burro Corrals, north of Reno, Nev., to be prepared for adoption or sale, while all burros will be transported to the Axtell, Utah, BLM Off-Range Wild Horse and Burro Corrals.
On the same Herd Management Area, BLM removed 126 wild horses in 2020 and 801 in 2018, failing to implement safe, proven and humane fertility control that could reduce future roundups. Of the 34 wild horses put down during those roundups, 24 were listed as having clubfoot.
The Nevada Wild Horse Range was established in 1962 in response to pressure from wild horse advocates from across the country. It came just three years after the passage of the Wild Horse Annie Act, which bars the use of any form of motorized vehicles as well as the poisoning of water holes done either to capture or kill wild horses and nine years before the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, which provides some protections and gave BLM broad powers to manage wild horses and burros on public lands. The Act, as amended, allows for helicopter roundups.