Last year, BLM captured 11,472 wild horses, burros; sold 1,451

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Wild horses photographed in February at the Onaqui Herd Management Area in Utah. The Bureau of Land Management has announced plans to remove 465 out of an estimated 586 wild horses from the 205,394-acre HMA in 2019.

The Bureau of Land Management captured and removed more of America’s wild horses from the range in Fiscal Year 2018 than in any year since 2002. The agency also sold more than the previous five years combined.

BLM removed 11,472 wild horses and burros during 2018 fiscal year, according to data posted on Monday. The total includes any wild horses captured by the U.S. Forest Service later shipped to BLM holding facilities.

The total number of wild horses and burros removed from the range in 2018 was greater than the previous three years combined and the most since 2002, when 12,029 were captured.

BLM has not yet released its on-range population estimate for 2019. In March 2018 – before the foaling season and last year’s roundups – the agency’s estimate stood at 66,976 wild horses and 14,975 burros.

The BLM has set a combined “Appropriate Management Level” of as low as 26,690 wild horses — just 1,390 more than in 1971, when Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 out of concern for their dwindling population.

The number of wild horses and burros living in government corrals (14,029) and on leased pastures (36,205) reached 50,935 in January. Of those, 49,339 were horses, 1,596 were burros.

In 2018, BLM administered safe, proven and effective fertility control to just 702 mares in 2018, down 75 from the previous year. The agency has never invested as much as 4% of its Wild Horse & Burro Program budget on humane fertility control, which would reduce the need for roundups.

BLM sold 1,451 wild horses in 2018. That appears to be the largest number that the agency has sold in a single year.

In May 2018, BLM implemented a new sales policy allowing a single buyer to purchase up to 24 wild horses or burros per day with no waiting period and no questions asked. Under BLM’s previous policy, a single buyer could not purchase more than four horses or burros every six months without special permission.

Update: BLM rescinded the 2018 sales policy change on March 13, 2019.

A total of 3,158 wild horses and burros were adopted during 2018, down from 3,517 the previous year. BLM has been unable to adopt out more than 4,000 horses and burros since 2007, when 4,772 were placed into homes.

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