“The wild mustangs are lonely all cooped up in manmade captivity.”
Government stay-at-home orders and social distancing due to coronavirus COVID-19 have long term mustang holding facilities closed to the public.
That’s according to Marty Irby, executive director of the Animal Wellness Action headquartered in Washington, D.C.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees the always controversial national wild horse program.
BLM officials clarified that operators of Public Off-Range Pastures (PORPs) continue to care for the animals.
“Still, some wild horse advocates argue that the lack of public scrutiny is not in the horses’ interests,” Irby emphasized.
More than 88,000 wild horses, under BLM management, reside on 26.9 million acres of public lands across 10 western states.
|About 37,000 horses removed from rangelands west of the Mississippi River now reside in long term mustang holding facilities.
They are in BLM-contracted PORPs and in Off-Range Pastures (ORPs) located in the high and central plains.
“While the ORPs aren’t open to the public, visitors can typically visit PORPs to view the animals,” Irby said.
Coronavirus-related orders from the White House and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention make the PORPs off-limits to visitors.
“Fortunately they have not relieved BLM contractors of their duties as the mustangs’ caretakers,” Irby appreciated.
“Contractors continue to monitor their herds as well as video-conference with BLM inspectors,” verified Scott Fluer, BLM’s off-range branch chief.
“Our contractors have really stepped up,” Fluer assured. “They understand this is an all-hands endeavor and that quality care remains a top priority for everyone.”
Still, certain wild horse advocates believe shuttering facilities to the general public is harmful. “Canceling on-site, in-person inspections might compromise the quality of care the wild horses receive,” Irby contended.
“We’ve had ongoing concern about lack of public access to holding facilities,” said Suzanne Roy, American Wild Horse Campaign director.
“The coronavirus pandemic just makes it more concerning,” according to Roy. “That’s in part because the once-a-year tour BLM organizes to one or two of these facilities will now be canceled.”
Irby also is worried that the lack of public access might relegate horse care during the lockdown period.
“I believe the lack of public scrutiny provides the opportunity for BLM contractors to become lax,” Irby said. “They could put the welfare and safety of the horses on the back burner. Contractors are likely to do the bare minimum when it comes to taking care of the horses in holding.”
According to the BLM, the PORPs will reopen to visitors when social distancing and COVID-19-related public health orders are rescinded.