Efforts To Reduce 12,000 Wild Horses Overpopulating Government Land

A report last week from officials at the Bureau of Land Management, those in charge of the wild horse and burro programs, revealed efforts to thin the overpopulation.

Although concerns are more for the method of trapping, than the necessity of reduction, at least awareness and action in regard to the situation are an effort in the right direction, contended conscientious horse breeders.

Concern has been continually expressed  that part of the reason for excess horse numbers in this country comes from continual expansion of wild horse numbers.

“The Bureau of Land Management, in collaboration with the USDA Forest Service, is soliciting bids for contracts that will help manage wild horses and burros located across the western United States,” according to BLM Wild Horse and Burro Division Chief Joan Guilfoyle.

Contracts are for a new bait trapping method intended to relieve areas of excess wild horses and burros where helicopter drive trapping is not an effective method.

“The bids are the first of their kind, in that they involve six zones across the West, with a potential for multiple contractors simultaneously bait trapping animals over an extended period of time,” Guilfoyle said.

Bait trapping is not a new method of gathering animals for the BLM. It has been implemented in areas where timeliness is not an issue, as bait trapping usually occurs over several weeks or months, where BLM personnel can monitor the progress.

“Many times it occurs in areas where water is already scarce, and the animals are lured by the water provided, or in areas where a helicopter cannot easily move the animals out of densely wooded areas,” Guilfoyle related.

Bait trapping involves capturing wild horses and burros by setting up panels and using food, water, salt or sexual attraction (a mare in heat) to lure animals into a trap.

“Allowing contractors to execute the bait trapping over lengthy amounts of time in a variety of locations simultaneously, however, is a new strategy for the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program,” Guilfoyle admitted.

“The BLM is committed to continuously improving its management of wild horses and burros,” Guilfoyle emphasized. “Deploying this new method of bait trapping enhances our ability to gather animals more effectively in certain areas of the West, while minimizing the impact to the animals.”

The concept of the contract is not to capture large numbers of wild horses and burros in a short period of time, but rather to capture smaller numbers over a long period of time.

“A benefit is that it reduces the impact to the BLM’s holding facilities,” Guilfoyle explained. “Instead of large horse gathers with hundreds or thousands of animals entering the facilities at one time, this type of management involves very small amounts of animals trickling into facilities over a longer period of time.”

The work consists of the capture, care, and transportation of wild horses and /or burros from Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.

“It requires work to be accomplished in a safe and humane manner during all phases of the operation, including capture, handling, and transport,” Guilfoyle clarified.

The BLM and FS manage wild horses and burros as part of their overall multiple-use missions.

Under the authority of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the BLM and FS manage and protect these living symbols of the Western spirit, while ensuring that population levels are in balance with other public rangeland resources and uses.

“To make sure that healthy herds thrive on healthy rangelands, the BLM must remove thousands of animals from the range each year to control the size of herds, which have virtually no predators and can double in population every four years,” Guilfoyle stressed.

“The current free-roaming population of BLM-managed wild horses and burros is 38,500, which exceeds by nearly 12,000 the number determined by the BLM to be the appropriate management level,” Guilfoyle admitted .

“Off the range, there are more than 47,000 wild horses and burros cared for in either short-term corrals or long-term pastures including several in Kansas. All these animals, whether on or off the range, are protected by the BLM under the 1971 law,” Guilfoyle confessed.

Contracts involve setting up a trap, capturing wild horses and burros, and shipping them to the BLM preparation facilities.

The goal is to employ horse knowledgeable and experienced contractors who live near where the wild horses and burros are located, so they have short travel times from one trap-area to another or to the BLM facility.

Simultaneously, there has been discussion about a horse slaughterhouse opening in Missouri, and opponents will be airing a film, “Saving America’s Horses, A Nation Betrayed,” Sunday, April 15, at 2:45 p.m., at the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum in Kansas City.

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