Bureau of Land Management Grappling with Wild Horse Population Boom

Bureau of Land Management Grappling with Wild Horse Population Boom

By Peter Hodge, Director of Investor Relations & Market Research

Part of Jaguar’s staff contribution series

Wild horses have long been a symbol of freedom, survival and the untamable spirit of the American West. Descendants of horses brought to the Americas in the 1500s by Spanish conquistadors, these animals roam public lands in Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming, Montana and other western states.

Under the authority of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the Bureau of Land Management is charged with protecting wild horses and ensuring that herd numbers don’t swell to a level where they are destroying the ecosystem, stripping rangelands bare, or dying of starvation.

Overpopulation has become a significant concern. The BLM estimates that 55,311 wild horses roamed the western U.S. as of March 1, 2016, and that wild horse and burro herds double in size roughly every four years.

The BLM is mandated to keep the number of wild horses at 23,622, but there is no simple solution. Rounding up wild horses and moving them to private ranches cost the government $74.9 million in 2012, according to The Washington Post. A birth control vaccine for horses exists that needs to be injected once a year, but an effort to round up thousands of horses to inject them with the vaccine, and then track their progress, would be a massive, costly task. Congress has largely restricted the slaughter of healthy wild horses, an approach that would meet with strong public resistance. Wild horses can be adopted, but only a few thousand people are willing and able to do so each year.

According to an estimate prepared by the American Wild Horse Preservation Center using BLM figures, approximately 82.5 percent of the forage in wild horse herd management areas is reserved for livestock grazing, while just 17.5 percent is allocated to wild horses. The BLM could therefore alleviate overcrowding by reducing livestock grazing on public lands, but this possible solution would no doubt prove controversial among ranchers.

How You Can Help:

The Bureau of Land Management operates a wild horse adoption program. Click here for information.

You can also donate to groups like The American Wild Horse Campaign, an organization dedicated to preserving American wild horses and burros in viable free-roaming herds. Visit AWHC at https://www.americanwildhorsecampaign.org.