Theodore Roosevelt National Park Announces Proposed Wild Horse Management Plans

Photo by Rich Sladick at Return to Freedom

In December the National Park Service (NPS) announced proposed plans to manage wild horses and cattle within the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP). As part of the process the NPS is soliciting public input as they prepare a livestock management plan for the park. It is important to note, the term livestock as it pertains to this is defined as “any species of animal that has been selectively bred by humans for domestic and agricultural purposes, including, but not limited to, cattle, sheep, horses, burros, mules, goats, and swine.” Presently there are nine cattle and approximately 200 horses within the park. Management plans developed in the 1970’s determined that an appropriate number of horses was 35-60 and 12 cattle.

The NPS has announced three proposed action alternative to manage horses and cattle. They are as follows:

  1. Alternative A:
    No new management actions. Population objective continues to be 35-60 horses and up to 12 cattle. Capture and sale of horses would continue to reduce population. Continue to use capture and contraceptive to maintain horse population defined in 1978 EA. Cattle to be replaced as animals die according to 1970 Management Plan. 
  2. Alternative B: 
    Zero out the horses “in an expedited fashion.” Tribes given first chance to receive horses. Then horses offered to other authorized entities or sold via US General Services Administration (GSA) auction. Cattle gathered and donated to other authorized entities or sold via GSA auction. NPS would remove all livestock within 2 years of implementation.
  3. Alternative C: 
    Zero out horses, but in a phased approach. Tribes given first opportunity to receive horses, then sold via GSA auction. Contraceptive used to prevent further reproduction. Once a reduced herd size of horses treated with contraceptive is achieved, these horses would remain in the park to live out their lives. Cattle gathered and donated to other entities or sold via GAS auction.

It is important to note, TRNP has utilized fertility control in the past via the drug GonaCon, though it is not mandated.

The NPS is currently in the scoping phase and is requesting public comments until January 31st. Return to Freedom will submit comments and encourages you to do the same. We have provided some talking points for you to include in your comments—as always, please keep comments respectful and constructive.

Fertility Control Implementation

According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), removal of excess horses can facilitate a higher growth rate in herds due to decreased competition for forage. Herds can grown 18-25% annually, this rate can be higher in areas where removals have occurred. Fertility control must be implemented from the beginning of a management program instead of waiting, this way it can be used in conjunction with removals to slow herd growth.

Method of Removal

The NPS has not stated how they plan to gather and remove horses. We encourage the NPS to implement the use of water and or bait-trapping for capture of any horses. The BLM’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare Protocol when handling, transporting or gather horses is a great point of reference.

TAKE ACTION: Submit comments before January 31st 2023

For more information follow these links:

Livestock Plan Scoping Letter

FAQ about TRNP horses