BLM seeking public comment on plans to capture 3,555 Wyoming wild horses

/ In The News, News, Roundups
A contractor’s helicopter pursues wild horses on the Red Desert Complex in Wyoming on Oct. 12, 2020. Photo by Meg Frederick for RTF.

The Bureau of Land Management is seeking public comment on a proposed roundup of about 3,500 wild horses on five Herd Management Areas in southwestern Wyoming.

Public comments are due by April 30. The roundup could take place as early as July.

The HMAs are: Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek, Great Divide Basin, White Mountain and Little Colorado. They are composed of 3.4 million acres of federal, state and private land across five Wyoming counties.

The agency-set Appropriate Management Level for the five HMAs is 1,550-2,165 horses or as low as one horse for every 2,217 acres. 

The BLM estimated there are currently about 5,105 wild horses between the HMAs, not counting this year’s foals, according to planning documents.

By comparison, the proposed roundup area overlaps 32 livestock grazing allotments with a total permitted use of 191,791 Animal Unit Months or as many as 15,983 cattle annually. One AUM equals the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow or five sheep for one month. Actual livestock use amounted to about half that maximum between 2010-20, according to BLM. 

None of the options considered including reducing permitted livestock use.

The alternatives that the agency is considering include:

–Capturing and removing 3,555 wild horses without implementing fertility control;

–Capturing 3,555 wild horses and removing all but 842. Of those, 420 mares would be treated with fertility control. About 290 of the mares would also receive IUDs;

–Capturing 3,555 wild horses and and removing all but 842. Of those, 253 mares would be treated with fertility control, 84 mares that have undergone sterilization surgeries, and 126 gelded males. 

Return to Freedom supports the use of the fertility control vaccines PZP and PZP-22 to slow reproduction and reduce calls for roundups. Because GonaCon interrupts the hormone cascade, it may cause other behavioral changes that would affect herd dynamics. As such, RTF would like to see more studies to ensure that GonaCon meets the parameters of ethical and thoughtful wildlife fertility control.

RTF opposes the use of IUDs based on past studies. IUDs used more recently by BLM are a newer technology made of a soft, anchor-shaped silicone but RTF remains opposed to their use until they are shown to be safe, humane and effective.

RTF strongly opposes sterilizing wild mares.

RTF does not advise sex ratio skewing for wild horses 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). 

RTF also does not advise gelding as a population management tool since there are not sufficient studies to understand the behavioral effects of gelding some proportion of a population, and modeling for population effects is a guess, at best.

To read BLM’s planning documents and submit a public comment, click here.