The Bureau of Land Management is seeking comments on a draft Environmental Assessment to analyze the impacts of applying fertility control to wild horse mares within Wyoming’s Stewart Creek Herd Management Area. The public comment period is open until Jan. 17.
The proposed fertility control darting program would begin this winter and continue through 2031, with the goal of maintaining a population of 150 wild horses.
The 168,000-acre Stewart Creek HMA is located south of Bairoil, Wyo. Made up mostly of BLM-managed rangeland, it has an agency-set “Appropriate Management Level” of 125-175 wild horses, or as low as one horse for every 1,344 acres.
By comparison, BLM allows up to 8,380 Animal Unit Months of seasonal cattle grazing on the Stewart Creek HMA, the year-round equivalent of 698 cow-calf pairs. (One AUM is the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow-calf combination, one horse, or five sheep for a month).
In October 2020, a helicopter roundup was conducted on the Stewart Creek HMA. Of 349 wild horses captured, 259 were removed from the range. (The Stewart Creek HMA removals were part of a larger Red Desert roundup in which 1,969 wild horses were captured and 10 killed.)
Forty-four captured stallions along with 46 mares treated with the fertility control vaccine PZP-22 were released back onto the range. In addition, an estimated 49 adult horses and 10 foals were not rounded up, leaving a total BLM-estimated population of 149 wild horses.
According to the draft document, BLM plans to treat mares with PZP, PZP-22 or GonaCon.
Return to Freedom supports the use of safe, proven and humane fertility control vaccines to slow (not stop) population growth in order to reduce and hopefully eliminate future roundups. RTF will comment on a preference for PZP vaccines because of their proven track record and 25-plus years of data.
RTF continues to have concerns about the possible use of 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.
Sending a public comment
The BLM’s draft Environmental Assessment can be found here. This new EA is tied to the Red Desert Herd Complex Gather Environmental Assessment, which can be found here.
The public comment period is open until Jan. 17. Comments will be accepted electronically at the first link above or by mail at: Bureau of Land Management, P.O. Box 2407, Rawlins, WY 82391.