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Does the U.S. do a good job handling wild horses?: Yea or Neigh?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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horseThere’s been a lot of whinnying lately over the fate of wild horses in the U.S.: How many there should be? What happens to the ones that get culled? Should they remain wild at all? The fates of these iconic animals has people on each side of the debate, including celebrities like Sheryl Crow, up in arms, and the clutter of opinions makes it hard to cut through to the facts. For example, is it true that the government sells wild horses for slaughter? (We’ll get to the answer later.)

Horses, of course, are not native to modern North America. There were horses in North and South America millennia ago, but they died out around 13,000 B.C. The Spanish conquistadors reintroduced horses to these shores in the 16th century, and equine have played a major role in the history of North America ever since.

Today, in addition to the millions of domesticated horses you can still find in every corner of the country, around 33,000 wild mustangs roam free in 11 western states, and wild  ponies inhabit several islands off the east coast, as well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), this is nearly double the number of wild horses that existed in the nation in 1971, the year they gained protected status under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. The government currently spends $60 million a year taking care of the animals, including $35 million to feed them.

Where does the rest of that money go? Some of it is spent to cull "excess" horses from public lands, and that’s where the real controversy lies. Many people decry the collection as inhumane and unsafe, and fear that the horses are bound for slaughterhouses, where they will be killed and turned into meat.

BLM Director Robert Abbey denies that any horses are sold to slaughterhouses. "The BLM has not and does not sell or send wild horses to slaughter," he wrote in a recent op-ed piece. In fact, he points out that this policy might actually violate U.S. law, which he says basically requires the BLM to sell horses to anyone who wants them. Abbey also says that wild horses breed prodigiously, and herds grow at around 20 percent per annum if they are not culled. (The Sierra Club agrees with him, saying wild horse populations could double every four years if not controlled.)

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar expanded on that in his own op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times, explaining why wild horses can’t always remain wild: "Without natural predators, wild horse populations have grown beyond the carrying capacity of the sensitive and sparse lands on which they live, causing damage to ecosystems and putting them at risk of starvation. As a result, federal managers must move thousands of wild horses each year off the range to pastures and corrals, where they are fed, cared for and put up for adoption."

The recent arrival of nearly 1,200 wild horses at a containment center in Nevada illustrates what happens to the horses after they are collected. The animals are tested for numerous diseases—including eastern and western sleeping sickness, influenza, West Nile, and rabies—as well as equine infectious anemia. They are also dewormed, and then sent to trainers to prepare them for adoption.

Last year, the BLM, which is responsible for administering the National Wild Horse and Burro Program, adopted out about 3,500 horses. That’s down from 8,000 annual adoptions less than a decade ago, a decrease the BLM blames on the high price of keeping domesticated horses. Many older horses will not even be sent to adoption events, and end up in fenced-in pastures for the rest of their lives. According to the BLM Web site, it costs $29 million a year to pen these unadoptable horses.

Meanwhile, several other complaints remain:

•    Are the BLM’s methods legal? A lawsuit by a group called In Defense of Animals, based in San Rafael, Calif., alleges that the methods to round up wild horses are illegal, as is moving them away from their home ranges. The case is due to go to court this April.

•    Is the use of helicopters in these roundups inhumane? Advocate groups say the practice terrorizes the horses, and at least 38 horses were trampled to death after being chased by helicopters during collections in 2009, out of about 7,500 horses removed from the wild.

•    How many horses are too many, or too few? A roundup of the Eagle Herd in Nevada will soon reduce the number of wild horses there from 595 to 100 (pdf). That doesn’t ease the fears of the people who believe that the government is trying to force wild horses into extinction.

•    Are horses being rounded up to fill some other, possibly nefarious, purpose? Some people fear the horses are being cleared out to make room for cattle ranches or natural gas development. The BLM denies these claims.

•    How many horses should there be? Willis Lamm, communications officer for the Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates (AOWHA) in Reno, Nev., wrote that the BLM’s claim there were only 17,300 wild horses in 1971 is untrue, and in turn says there used to be 42,000 wild horses, far more than there are today.

On top of that, let’s go back to the slaughterhouse issue. According to AOWHA’s Lamm, the BLM has sold horses to people who have resold them to processing plants. And as Pulitzer Prize–winner Jane Smiley wrote last year in The New York Times, many domesticated horses (not enough, she argues) go to slaughterhouses because they are too expensive to keep healthy, too expensive to euthanize, and difficult to dispose of by either burying or cremation.

Salazar says he has a lot of plans for managing the U.S.’s wild horses in the future, including fertility control, finding new territories for them to roam, and establishing public-private partnerships to help care for the wild animals. Will any of this come to pass? Will it be enough? No matter what happens, you can guarantee the vigorous and emotional debate will continue.

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  1. 1. Amy Coulter 10:41 pm 01/26/2010

    I read this piece thinking, "when are they going to get to the science"? This is simply a restatement of both sides of the argument. This is unfortunate given the important scientific questions involved, including the true ancestry of the wild horse, the disruption of the social order within wild herds which occurs during roundup and relocation, the ecology of the range, the effect of change in diet and environment on relocated horses and genetic viability of the wild horses that remain, just to name a few. I hope you will revisit this topic with the same academic rigor given other topics in your publication.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Lou Russo NV 10:53 pm 01/26/2010

    Ever wonder how or why a writer such as this John Platt thinks he contributes something worthwhile, or feels good about an article when it is so one sided and filled with myths, lies and misconceptions as this? Every comment-every paragrpah was so far up the BLM’s backside I had a hard time continuing. The BLM claims they care so much, Bob Abbey said that is not true, Ken Salazar has a wonderful plan so he must be a wonderful person who wants to do????? NO where in this article do I see truths told about the land or what IS truly going on or taking place???? NO horses go to slaughter? Yeah we are supposed to believe in the fairly godmother as well? Let’s see, last count I believe in 2009 there were like 90,000 American horses that went to slaughter…. these yo-yo’s are trying to make most of you believe that NONE OF THEM were Mustangs? HORSE PUCKY!! Pun intended!! Removing these animals has and continues to cost every taxpayer a small forutne when these animals were doing just fine if left alone. How many do you see starving? Where are the pictures of the degrigated or destroyed enviroment? Don’t listen to me, add up the figures for yourself, ask the questions, you people are not stupid. Ask the BLM how many range areas where ALL wild horses/burros have been elinimated now have on those same lands that were not sustaining the horses or burros cattle on them? BLM leases the land out to a cattle rancher at $1.39 per month, per cow and calf, = $16.68 per year. Multiply that times 3 or even 7 million cattle = $ ?????? income back? Now compare that to the billions they have spent removing the horses unecessarily, doesn’t make sense. BLM has and continues to spend buckets of money removing these wild mustangs and burros that are FAT and SASSY then they go to ranches like 3 Strikes in Nebraska that starves them or sold to buyers who send them to Mexico or Canada to be slaughtered. Ask what they pay the contractors to round them up? Ask how many die or get injured inhumanely? Ask them about the ones that die of thirst due to the BLM fencing off watering holes? Ask how much to process, transport, care for them after capture…….then when the money runs out their solution is euthanasia for the 33,000 they have in holding pens? Call Obama and tell him to leave the WILD MUSTANGS and BURROS alone. Make the cattle ranchers lease grazing land elsewhere or grow more hay but stop destroying helpless animals or making us taxpayers pay so they can kill more horses and burros for unjust enrichment. STOP ALL ROUNDUPS!!!!!

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  3. 3. FairMaiden 11:22 pm 01/26/2010

    The public asked many times for an independent assessment and analysis of this situation. We, the public, asked that it be performed by a CREDIBLE agency, such as The National Academy of Sciences. It seems this would have been a responsible and logical first step. The BLM refused.
    Ranchers graze livestock on public lands for rock bottom rates, paying $1.35-$1.39 per month per head instead of the private-land rate of more than $13.00 per month per animal.
    The taxpayers further subsidize private ranchers through government programs that kill predators and remove wild horses and burros. The BLM authorizes livestock grazing on 160 million acres of public land. Wild horses are allowed just 26 million acres, land that is shared with livestock. The BLM’s own data shows that the majority of rangeland deterioration is caused by livestock. Now the BLM proposes purchasing acreage in the midwest to place our wild horses on. Why not give the wild horses back the land that was designated to them? Why not retire federal grazing permits?
    And speaking of slaughter, the BLM’s decision to hire the Cattoor’s as the "contractor" for the Nevada roundup is very odd. In 1992, Mr. Cattoor was indicted by a federal grand jury for HUNTING WILD HORSES, aiding and abetting. Cattoor rounded up federally protected mustangs, corralled them into pens and loaded them into trucks bound for slaughter.
    Mr. Cattoor pled guilty to the charges. If I ever had a felony charge, I’m not supposed to get a federal contract. So why are my tax dollars paying the Cattoors? Isn’t this illegal? If the BLM had the best interest of our wild horse in mind, I don’t think they would have hired the "wolf in sheep’s clothing" for the roundup.
    Anyone else would of been arrested by now. If I ran a foal so long that I destroyed it’s hooves, if I ran mares over such a long distance that I caused them to abort, I would be arrested on animal cruelty charges. Yet the Cattoors are allowed to do this?
    Part of the Wild Horse and Burro Act, 1971 states the wild horses are not to be harrassed, chased, or treated inhumanely. So why is the BLM allowing this?
    I resent my tax dollars paying the Cattoors, who apparently have made millions several times over. I resent my tax dollars helping the ranchers, and I really resent my tax dollars paying to roundup our wild horses.
    It is such a shame that President Obama appointed Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior. Ken Salazar, the rancher.

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  4. 4. Freedom 2010 12:11 am 01/27/2010

    Let me see if I have this straight. It’s beginning to sound like a soap opera.
    Ken Salazar, a rancher is removing wild horses off land that was designated to them in the Wild Horse and Burro Act, 1971. No public observers allowed at the roundup….even though it is our wild horses on our public land.
    Salazar is proposing to purchase land somewhere else, which really is not necessary, since the wild horses were already designated land (where they currently reside). But, Ken Salazar wants to cater to the ranchers and the Ruby Pipeline Project. So…Ken Salazar hires the FEDERALLY INDICTED (on horse hunting charges)
    Cattoors to remove our wild horses off of the land that was designated to them. Gee, maybe this is why so many horses are being injured/killed. Oh, and the Ruby Pipeline is also going in there, so our wild horses are in the way, but no one can come out and say this. So Boone Picken apparently is part of the Ruby Pipeline Project…(shh, don’t tell anyone), and his wife Madeleine Pickens wants to open a wild horse sanctuary for all of our wild horses being taken off land that is rightfully theirs. And the taxpayers are paying for it!!! Wow, something wrong here folks!!!!
    Oh, and the BLM doesn’t slaughter our wild horses? Hmmm, the Cattoors were federally indicted for HORSE HUNTING.
    Also, BLM spokesperson Mary Knapp, stated that each year 266,000 horses are slaughtered, including wild and domestic horses.
    I think it’s time for a moratorium on the roundups. This sounds like one big mess…. the horses and taxpayers are paying a very steep price. Oh yeah, the Cattoors are making one million. And President Obama……where are you?

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  5. 5. Kendra 12:46 am 01/27/2010

    Wild horses are a return native species. They died out in North America 8,000-11,000 years ago which in evolutionary time is very very short. BLM removes 10,000′s more horses than necessary for the health of herds and rangeland. Cattle outnumber wild horses more than 200 to 1 on our public lands and public lands or "welfare ranching " is a $123 million/year net loss to taxpayers with real damages nearing $1 BILLION annually. The wild horse is being lost amidst a lot of lies and misinformation from the BLM which spends 1/2 their annual budget of $69 million on removing 12,000 more wild horses and burros and the other 1/2 on feeding those they’ve already captured. This program is a trainwreck and the horses and burros and the public are losing. Americans own our public lands. BLM spends very little $ on their adoption program and is not following the wild horse and burro act of 1971. Since the passage of that Act wild horses have lost over 23 million acres of their designated lands and have been reduced in number year after year. Right now a brutal $2 million roundup is taking place in Nevada. BLM only allows the public to watch 3 days per week and then limits it to only 10 people. Don’t believe the misinformation– wild horses belong in the west on their lands. Ex: BLM proposes to leave only 100 horses on 670,000 acres in Nevada next month… saying that is all the land can sustain. A water pipeline and the thousands of cattle grazing there are doing a lot more damage than the horses, which evolved in these ecosystems. Please call for a moratorium on roundups, let’s set government straight before our wild horses and burros are managed to extinction. You can visit http://www.thecloudfoundation.org for more details.

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  6. 6. Kendra 12:47 am 01/27/2010

    In Short: NEIGH!

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  7. 7. wildsage 1:26 am 01/27/2010

    Refuting many who believe that wild horses are neither wild nor indigenous to North America, and are a nuisance to rangelands and other livestock,recent molecular biology research compiled by Dr. Jay F Kirkpatrick, Phd., Director of the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, MT proves otherwise. He attests that wild horses are, in fact, a re-introduced native wildlife species. Kirkpatrick states, "The genus Equus, which includes modern horses, zebras, and asses, is the only surviving genus in a once diverse family of horses that included 27 genres. Equus was native to North America 1.4 to 1.6 million years ago and migrated to Asia where it survived and flourished. It was reintroduced to the North American continent in 1519 by Hernando Cortez then continued to be imported northward by the Spaniards from Mexico. Recent genetic research has proven that the modern horse is the true genetic equivalent to E Lambei, the last horse to occupy North America prior to extinction." It stands to reason that the horse is as much of apart of our landscape as the grizzly or the moose, or any other free roaming species that has survived the millennia.

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  8. 8. wildsage 1:27 am 01/27/2010

    Refuting many who believe that wild horses are neither wild nor indigenous to North America, and are a nuisance to rangelands and other livestock,recent molecular biology research compiled by Dr. Jay F Kirkpatrick, Phd., Director of the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, MT proves otherwise. He attests that wild horses are, in fact, a re-introduced native wildlife species. Kirkpatrick states, "The genus Equus, which includes modern horses, zebras, and asses, is the only surviving genus in a once diverse family of horses that included 27 genres. Equus was native to North America 1.4 to 1.6 million years ago and migrated to Asia where it survived and flourished. It was reintroduced to the North American continent in 1519 by Hernando Cortez then continued to be imported northward by the Spaniards from Mexico. Recent genetic research has proven that the modern horse is the true genetic equivalent to E Lambei, the last horse to occupy North America prior to extinction." It stands to reason that the horse is as much of apart of our landscape as the grizzly or the moose, or any other free roaming species that has survived the millennia.

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  9. 9. hotblack 1:51 am 01/27/2010

    What the hell do politicians care? They are concerned with the manmade world, and manmade problems revolving around money. What the hell do most americans care? Their world revolves around their pursuit of financial wealth. Not until resources are preserved with as much force as they’re exploited with will conservation be taken seriously.

    Someone’s gotta poach the poachers, and it sure aint going to be washington.

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  10. 10. husker01 2:52 am 01/27/2010

    Mr. Abbey and his " media" folks make a huge effort to say they do not send OUR wild horses/ burros to slaughter; yet they sure sell to those involved in dealing with horse slaughter. Take note, the BLM like to withhold information, we are on a need to know basis. They have not revealed how many babies have been aborted after this Calico roundup either.
    Back in the mid 90′s the BLM knew full well, manytens of thousands of horses were not accounted for and the BLM all the way to the top, knew they went to slaughter.
    Now, this is on Obama. He has said nothing and done nothing.
    I would suggest to Obama to start taking care of HIS COUNTRY’S Wild Ones and maybe his administration
    will shine in a different light. There is a reason his health
    care plan has not worked, well, for that matter a reason
    none of his lies have worked. He forgot the ANIMALS
    that we are suppose to be speaking up for.
    He has failed those who really matter; and the Lord
    is showing him to change his ways. Lets hope he gets the message, before all the horses end up on European dinner plates.

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  11. 11. zebradun 3:12 am 01/27/2010

    I have wondered why the BLM insists on telling the lie that the Mustang does not have any predators? Wild horses and burros are eaten by bears and other predator species such as mountain lions. The Cerbat Mustangs in Arizona, do not have to be culled, the Mountain Lions that live in the same range does the BLM’s job for them! As seen on the Cloud documentary Oct.2009 – Over half of the new born to yearling foals born are killed and devoured by mountain lions! The horses that are attacked by a Mt.Lion and escape have the scars of that encounter the rest of their lives.

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  12. 12. LOUIE COCROFT 4:04 am 01/27/2010

    This is what happens to horese that are sent to slaughter;
    Equine Vet Speaks Out Against Horse Slaughter
    March 9, 2009
    By Lisa Carter, DVM
    Some horse owners take the easy route to rid themselves of "useless" horses. They send their horse to an auction. He or she is left in a pen for 12-24 hours without food or water, packed up into another trailer (sometimes a double-decker cattle trailer), and hauled hundreds of milesstill without food or wateroften incurring injuries during the ride due to the overcrowding.

    An American horse enters the kill box at a Mexican slaughter plant.The HSUS
    These horses arrive at a slaughterhouse, which is designed for cattle, in deplorable conditions and are forced into the plant to endure a terrible and painful death.
    If they are lucky, they will only be struck in the head once with a captive bolt before their subsequent death. Most are not so lucky. Some very unfortunate horses end up in Mexico, where they are stabbed repeatedly in the neck in an effort to sever the spinal cord. These horses are paralyzed while being butchered, but still fully conscious.

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  13. 13. lgcee 4:58 am 01/27/2010

    This is an article worthy of Scientific American? Where is the science? Where is the research? This author did nothing but go to the BLM website and parrot their scheming, lying stats. I would NEVER pay for this magazine now that I know the kind of pop culture tripe it serves up claiming it is science! I’ll get my science from expert horsemen, veterinarians, biologists, ecologists, geneticists, thank you very much!

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  14. 14. sandcanyongal 5:37 am 01/27/2010

    Out here in Kern County, burros have been summarily removed by BLM. There is a rescue close by. For that matter, so have the Mojave desert tortoises been moved. They’re endangered and there are empty shells everywhere.

    No, it’s not OK to remove, displace and "manage" wild horses deer, sheep of any animals. I’m rural but there are very few animals or birds here. I’ve never even seen a deer in the 5 years I’ve lived here…a freeway, railroad tracks, wind farms and growth. The one wild herd of horses have been threatened to be collected by BLM. The residents protect them for now. The companies that build need to pony up and put in corridors. Instead, they continue to break the ecosystems in the name of sustainability. I write to the politicians frequently about these issues.

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  15. 15. Jean 6:25 am 01/27/2010

    The very idea that an agency of OUR govt. can go against their mandated purpose, defy public opinion, and follow this rogue policy to remove OUR Wild Horses and Burros has me irate,astonished and so sad, If the BLM continues with this wrong-headed policy we may very soon have no horses or burros running wild and FREE. When that happens it will be a horrible loss to the entire country I have seen them in their home ranges in Northern Nevada and it is a sight that will fill you heart with joy and wonder. It will remind you what you may have forgotten about freedom.

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  16. 16. B.C.E. 11:36 am 01/27/2010

    Wow, this article sure pulled in all the bleeding hearts from the interwebs. Seriously, trying to say that it’s all the fault of the cattlemen’s greed that the horses are being ‘slaugheterd’… Like the herds here outside of Vegas in the wild horse & burro management area @ Red Rock NCA? (Let me clue you in, no cattle, anywhere near by, not a good place for cattle, not the issue. Really? "The wild horses are a re-introduced native species of the American West…. roaming on their native Western public lands where they have evolved & adapted for centuries & where they are a beneficial part of the ecosystem". That is a ridiculous uninformed and ungrounded statement. Horses are just as damaging to the ecosystem as cattle (on a smaller scale) mainly because they have no natural predators (they did have predators in the Pleistocene when they where last ‘native’)
    You (horse) people have no concept of ecology or responsiblity.
    We need to MANAGE the herds, not let them run wild. We do that & we will be sacrificing the truely unique natives like pronghorn, desert bighorn etc. Too many ‘FERAL’ (not wild) horses are the bull in the china shop. Now get a life and some prespective trolls

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  17. 17. texkahula 12:38 pm 01/27/2010

    The most humane and cheapest way to "HANDLE" the wild horses and burros is to leave them alone. They have survived on their own for almost 400 years without human intervention. The BLM is in the pockets of special interest groups (cattlemen, El Paso (Ruby Pipeline) ) etc. The BLM is hell-bent on destroying a great American heritage – our beloved wild horses. We must join together as a nation, united in one voice and put a stop to this madness. Last week a tiny foal was literally run to death by the BLM. WE MUST NOT ONLY STOP THE ROUNDUPS BUT WE MUST MONITOR THE BLM WHILE ROUNDUPS CONTINUE!!!

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  18. 18. Hmmm! 12:59 pm 01/27/2010

    Here is some of the proof that is needed regarding past BLM actions…scroll down to Public Trust Betrayed and Horses to Slaughter. Wake up America…today horses rounded up…someday could be us?! Something to ponder!

    http://www.peer.org/federal/federal_info.php?row_id=2

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  19. 19. Jean 4:44 pm 01/27/2010

    It is possible to express your opinion without being rude and insulting to others who have posted their opinions.

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  20. 20. Jean 4:49 pm 01/27/2010

    It is possible to express your opinion without being rude and insulting to others who have posted their opinions. Many posters here, myself included have expressed their outrage against the BLM’s policies but haven’t resorted to name-calling and insults–yes I am talking to B.C.E.–please lets keep it civilized. Jean

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  21. 21. Monika Courtney 5:50 pm 01/27/2010

    We must preserve these true native species in their Western federally protected habitat, which has been taken away from them since 1971 (over 19 million acres). It would save millions of tax dollars, and preserve herds which have been systematically removed for other interests such as alternative energy exploration, fossil fuel drilling, and private livestock interests. The West has become a multi-million $$ giveaway scam for welfare ranchers. The price pays the mustang… with the loss of freedom, his life in the wild where they rightfully belong under the 1971 WFRHB Act, the destruction of his bands and the degradation into broken spirited commodities standing in holding pens, so intriguingly called "lush pastures" by a rogue BLM agency who has gone amok. The reality of our mustangs and burros is this: With a BLM who is hell bent on wiping out our wild horses, against the recommendation of a federal judge not to increase the number of horses already languishing in captivity – they went ahead with the massive removal and will continue to do so this fiscal year, planned removal is 12’000 wild horses in 2010. This leaves us now with less mustangs in the wild than are stockpiled in holding pens… yet there are approx. 8 million cattle grazing on our western public lands – with a ratio of 200 cattle to 1 wild horse. Horses are driven to the most inhospitable areas of the range… and fall victim to constant fabrications of a BLM, such as "deterioration of range… ", "starvation" etc. Yet, no one whines about the cattle… Not only have thousands of these icons of the West faced illegal slaughter done by under-the-table dealings… the recent discovery of covert meetings to secretly discuss the destruction and disposal of the horses in holding pens. (www.reinfree.org) We have reached a time in our history, where this horrendous issue of our mustangs has become a huge concern on a nationwide scale – not only have the last wild horses been born now… the loss of OUR public lands is at stake – with lands being auctioned off to foreign owned corporations whose agenda is nothing but greed and results in permanent irreparable destruction of our heritage.
    The propaganda of BLM / Cattoor must be exposed. Cattoor rounder upper claims to be humane… and rants on Madeleine Picken’s visit that she "spooked" the horses… and that it is "illegal to harass the mustangs".. oh really ??? Cattoor shot a colt, after he suffered a day, losing his hooves from being run down… mares abort they are so stressed from round ups. Cattoor gets away..

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  22. 22. Catherine Ritlaw 5:54 pm 01/27/2010

    The BLM is abusive and knows very little about managing horses in a humane and caring way. They treat these intelligent, sensitive animals as livestock. They refuse to listen to wild horse experts and wildlife biologists. My sanctuary is filled with animals damaged by the BLM and its policies. Catherine Ritlaw, http://www.journeysendranchanimalsanctuary.org

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  23. 23. Monika Courtney 6:42 pm 01/27/2010

    The LIES and PROPAGANDA of BLM :

    http://www.animallawcoalition.com/horse-slaughter/article/1130

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  24. 24. quickrebel 7:05 pm 01/27/2010

    While I appreciate your publicizing the wild horse problem in this country, I take exception to several statements made in your article.

    Horses are, in fact, native to North America. Although they did die out here, some migrated from Alaaka to Russia via a land bridge that once existed. Those horses are the ancestors of the modern horse.

    It is highly unlikely that wild horse herds grow 20 percent each year. Even though there are not as many predators as there once were, wild horses are not long lived.

    Horses do not cause nearly as much damage to ecosystems as cattle, who share the public lands. There are roughly 30,000 wild horses in the West versus millions of cattle, Nor are the horses starving. Just look at the many photos and videos posted on the Internet.

    Most of the wild horses gathered by the BLM are not offered for adoption. The BLM is not required to keep horses over the age of 10, and those animals are auctioned, mainly to "killer" buyers, who sell them at a profit to slaughterhouses.

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  25. 25. jslayton 7:06 pm 01/27/2010

    More and more lies from the BLM. Before the 1971 act passed our WH&B were almost instinct hence the reason millions of people fought to save them. The bill passed unanamiously. Since then corporate interests especially the cattle industry (who think they own the land) have fought to remove them.There are 200 cattle to one horse-who’s overgrazing? Cattle gather by water holes, horses move around scattering seed-Who destroys the range? The natural predators were removed many years ago-they were bothering the cattle. Obviously the horses have an impact but it is much less than cattle. This is no different than what we did to the native american. We took their land and shoved them unto reservations and then when we discovered stuff on that land that we wanted, we got rid of them there too. These horses developed the west doing everything asked of them and I believe they have a well earned place there. In addition it is costing the taxpayer a fortune to gather them and hold them in the Salazar zoos while the government waits for the american people to take their eye off and then the government will kill them all and another piece of american history will be gone forever. Our country is run by the corporations for the corporations, how very very sad for us all.

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  26. 26. jslayton 7:13 pm 01/27/2010

    For the wild ones provides good solutions that are worth discussing and a moratorium on the roundups should start immediately and for once the government must listen and work to provide real solutions for our living legends.

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  27. 27. Gloriapower 8:00 pm 01/27/2010

    It’s just inhumane. The horses were happy. The horses were bothering no one. Removing the horses is criminal, hateful, & it’s a sin.

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  28. 28. Gloriapower 8:01 pm 01/27/2010

    What has been done to the poor wild horses is a crime & a sin. The horses were happy. The horses were bothering no one.

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  29. 29. MorganLvr 8:30 pm 01/27/2010

    I barely started reading this article when I saw an error so glaring that I don’t think I’ll even bother to read the rest.

    Horses certainly ARE native to NORTH America! Horses originated in North America. They lived here for millions of years and migrated to Eurasia over the Bearing Strait. They almost died out here – there is quite good evidence that a remnant did survive – and then were reintroduced by the Spaniards in 1519. ANY textbook on ancient history, genetics, or North American ancient history will tell you this. I’ve known horses evolved on North American since I was a child!

    I can’t BELIEVE this was published in SciAm!

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  30. 30. MorganLvr 8:32 pm 01/27/2010

    I barely started reading this article when I saw an error so glaring that I don’t think I’ll even bother to read the rest.

    Horses certainly ARE native to NORTH America! Horses originated in North America. They lived here for millions of years and migrated to Eurasia over the Bearing Strait. They almost died out here – there is quite good evidence that a remnant did survive – and then were reintroduced by the Spaniards in 1519. ANY textbook on ancient history, genetics, or North American ancient history will tell you this. I’ve known horses evolved on North American since I was a child!

    I can’t BELIEVE this was published in SciAm!

    Link to this
  31. 31. sandcanyongal 6:55 am 01/28/2010

    Does anyone have ideas on how to win this battle? Darn it, our gov’t departments, like Congress and BLM continue to approve removal of horses under the guise of managing the health and population size of herds. Are the staff at BLM comprised of veterinarians, animal habitat specialists or even qualified to make these decisions? This should not continue to go unchallenged. I agree with one of the first comments about the possibilities of other agendas at work. Is there any chance to finally put an end horse roundups? If so, let’s stop this from continuing…

    Link to this
  32. 32. Tumbleweed 43 8:08 am 01/28/2010

    quit culling their natural predators and leave the animals alone. We live in a very "KILL" society where, if the animal does not fit into their plans, they expect to do away with them.
    Quit selling their natural grounds to make money off the ranchers.

    Link to this
  33. 33. Hmmm! 8:52 am 01/28/2010

    Quick Rebel and Morganlvr are correct in that horses are not a re-introduced species…if you dig deep enough, most horse people know this already. ..remains have been discovered to prove that, however, those remains somehow "disappeared"? What a surprise..all those professionals in the scientific world can’t be proven wrong all those years…and to change what has been written in books would be astronimical! As well, the Vikings vs. the Spaniards were noted most likely to be the first to bring horses to America via the Great Lakes…remains were discovered in that area. Also, camel remains have been discovered here…Egyptions or a later traveling circus act or the Bering Strait theory? Hmmm? Bottom line, horses are not a re-introduced species, so yes, now that we have cleared that up…thank you to previous posts…let’s move on…the BLM, Secretary of the Interior and any other cronies involved via the government are basically breaking the law!! Again, what a surprise…happens everywhere and all the time..glad to see some Americans waking up..albeit it took awhile. As far as this blog…shame on the writer for not doing more extensive homework…you asked for comments, well you got them…now what…balls in your court!

    Link to this
  34. 34. DonnaD 10:03 am 01/28/2010

    We currently treat wild horses abysmally. As a lifelong horseperson and equestrian, I know most captured wild horses make money going to slaughter. Millions of cattle roam our public lands, I would rather have them off and totally leave the wild horses alone.

    Link to this
  35. 35. Hmmm! 1:07 pm 01/28/2010

    I agree, however, beef is very big business, so unless we all stop or at least slow our beef consumption and those that support it (including we Americans), the cattle industry will rule supreme.

    Especially over horses as the government most likely sees no profits in wild horses. Perhaps they wish to utilize our tax dollars elswhere? Who knows. I am on the horses side..own near 30 myself…including 2 BLM’s with very rare and viable spanish genes with some very interesting mutations (they have been tested) and several whose lineage come from those wild lines. These group of horses really need to be studied further (and they are, but funding is short and the horses are leaving us via those roundups), so for those who are interested in the science aspect of it all…there ya go…and by the way..those genes are no longer found in Spain and Europe..they are looking to us for them now and we are destroying them.,,America has a real national treasure and doesn’t care (except for us few) because they see no big profits. Once those genes are lost to slaughter, sterilization or whatever, there will be no more…it is very sad indeed. This is just the tip of the iceburg folks…do your research and pay attention..our small farmers, domestic pets and home grown produce are just a few of the chopping block items on the Big Brother’s list. Watch the larger organizations that you donate money to. Sorry, am not kooky..just want people to realize there is a much bigger picture here and the wild horse roundup is just a start. Some scientists and animal professionals already know this as they work for these large organizations already…they know what’s going on and are told to shut up and put up…just like the BLM. Sad.

    Link to this
  36. 36. sandcanyongal 10:39 pm 01/28/2010

    I’ve written Ken Salazar against a wind farm that will destroy 9400 acres of virgin habitat and territory of Cal. condors. I wrote Commander Abrahams at Ft. Irwin about moving Mojave desert turtles again after 2 botched moves. Get this…the tortoises were moved while they were hibernating. When they woke up in another place they were lost and tried going back to their home and died or got eaten by other animals. Under the former administration BLM and Fish & Game were given more lattitude to grow their businesses. Land deals were made apparently. Gee. Wind farms/solar are going up in eastern Kern County and in the next breath, land has been rezoned for residential from ag. It’s like with the horses and burros. They’re being removed to continue to reshape the land to grow more cities. Bush also promoted more foreign investments. It’s all about greed/money/power. It needs to stop. This exact pattern is the reason our earth is in chaos and continues to warm. It actively threatens our survival. The greatest challenge is convincing people that we need to permanently change. We quit eating meat or fish. I cook for our 15 rescue dogs to reduce the chance of cancers. Dumping chemicals, polluting, culling wildland creatures under false pretence are clearly criminal. Each of us can be advocates and take an active role in stopping the government and companies from trashing everything to the point of mass extinction.

    Like Equador, we should think in term of a new constitution.

    Link to this
  37. 37. Morgan 2:57 pm 01/29/2010

    Uranium and other energy development is the nearly the key reason why our public land is being cleared of anything considered a ‘nuisance’. First Mustangs and Burros because they are such easy targets and SO many laws/regulations have been formulated on behalf of the DOI so they may circumvent the 1971 Act. Vague language spotted by deceitful people is used to promote their own agenda. The biggest key for Americans to finally realize is that American soil has been and continues to sold off lot by lot to foreign interests due to our out of control national debt. Our Federal Government and government agencies (such as the DOI, BLM) march to the tune of whoever controls the land. The UAE is funding The American Mining Association. The UAE views Mustangs and Burros as expendable vermin only suitable for dinner plates and by products. Only well bred Arabians are considered worthy horseflesh in the Middle East. Who do you think owns/controls the majority share of the horse racing industry in America? The UAE wants to mine/drill/pipeline the life out of our American west. Uranium is not only for nuclear fuel and power plants. Uranium makes bombs. Who in the Middle East is hot to trot for Uranium right now? And who do they want to bomb off the face of the earth? The first starts "I" the second starts with "A". Are our Federal Government suits connecting the dots?

    EVERY action that the BLM and the DOI are allowed to take is criminal offense punishable by prison sentences and stripping of their rights to freedom. EVERY LAST ACTION from signing death warrant contracts with the Cooks and Cattoors to the time they pick up their paychecks. Every single person involved should be fired and charged with crimes against America. They are stealing taxpayers dollars, destroying land and murdering wildlife in broad daylight, in plain sight of every American who pays taxes and with the full knowledge of our Federal Government. Our Commander in Chief is allowing free reign to an agency causing mass destruction of land and extinction of American icons. Our past and present Commander in Chief have been authorizing political waste and selling out our beloved country to foreign interests with no restraints. I blame the wicked & greedy eight years of Bush administration for what is happening to our Mustangs, Burros, public lands, national parks and other wildlife treasures. Now our President who touted ‘transparency’ and ‘change’ does NOTHING to stop the insanity.

    Link to this
  38. 38. Morgan 3:48 pm 01/29/2010

    Uranium and other energy development is the nearly the key reason why our public land is being cleared of anything considered a ‘nuisance’. First Mustangs and Burros because they are such easy targets and SO many laws/regulations have been formulated on behalf of the DOI so they may circumvent the 1971 Act. Vague language spotted by deceitful people is used to promote their own agenda. The biggest key for Americans to finally realize is that American soil has been and continues to sold off lot by lot to foreign interests due to our out of control national debt. Our Federal Government and government agencies (such as the DOI, BLM) march to the tune of whoever controls the land. The UAE is funding The American Mining Association. The UAE views Mustangs and Burros as expendable vermin only suitable for dinner plates and by products. Only well bred Arabians are considered worthy horseflesh in the Middle East. Who do you think owns/controls the majority share of the horse racing industry in America? The UAE wants to mine/drill/pipeline the life out of our American west. Uranium is not only for nuclear fuel and power plants. Uranium makes bombs. Who in the Middle East is hot to trot for Uranium right now? And who do they want to bomb off the face of the earth? The first starts "I" the second starts with "A". Are our Federal Government suits connecting the dots?

    EVERY action that the BLM and the DOI are allowed to take is criminal offense punishable by prison sentences and stripping of their rights to freedom. ALL OF IT! EVERY LAST ACTION from signing death warrant contracts with the Cooks and Cattoors to the time they pick up their paychecks. Every single person involved should be fired and charged with felony crimes against America. They are stealing taxpayers dollars, destroying land and murdering wildlife in broad daylight in plain sight of every American who pays taxes and with the full knowledge of our Federal Government. Our Commander in Chief is allowing free reign to an agency causing mass destruction of land and extinction of American icons. Our past and present Commander in Chief have been authorizing political waste and selling out our beloved country to foreign interests with no restraints. I blame the wicked & greedy eight years of Bush administration for what is happening to our Mustangs, Burros, public lands, national parks and other wildlife treasures. Now our President who touted ‘transparency’ and ‘change’ does NOTHING to stop the insanity.

    We are fighting against (in Washington DC) ignorance, short sightedness, apathy, irresponsibility, greed, hate, false pride, prejudice, deceit, cold blooded murder, thieves, — all of which are dark demonic forces, raging mad bulls on steroids, freight trains going at full steam, rabid dogs gone completely insane. But by no stretch of the imagination are these political traits anything new in our local, state and Federal Governments.

    Link to this
  39. 39. sandcanyongal 9:33 pm 01/29/2010

    Here is food for thought from Rex Peterson, a local.
    link: http://www.tehachapinews.com/node/16914

    Closure of slaughter plants ‘a big disservice’

    The forced closure of 15 horse slaughter plants in the United States, coupled with the Bureau of Land Management policy of keeping

    30,000 captive mustangs and burros alive elicits a passionate reaction from Rex Peterson.

    "It’s done the horse world a disservice," Peterson said. "Those bleeding hearts closed the killer (slaughter) plants. The way the

    economy is, people can’t feed their horses and now it is the most horrible thing you’ve ever seen. People are turning their horses

    loose to die. They have no place to take them. It’s unbelievable. The people who closed the plants should take over the horses.

    "They should have these horses introduced to their own yards. It’s a horrible, horrible thing. Sometimes (slaughter is) the kindest

    thing for ‘em. How horses are dying now is ten times worse than going to the plants.

    You don’t want to know how they destroy them in Mexico."

    Link to this
  40. 40. sandcanyongal 9:35 pm 01/29/2010

    Here is food for thought from Rex Peterson, a local.
    link: http://www.tehachapinews.com/node/16914

    Closure of slaughter plants ‘a big disservice’

    The forced closure of 15 horse slaughter plants in the United States, coupled with the Bureau of Land Management policy of keeping 30,000 captive mustangs and burros alive elicits a passionate reaction from Rex Peterson.

    "It’s done the horse world a disservice," Peterson said. "Those bleeding hearts closed the killer (slaughter) plants. The way the economy is, people can’t feed their horses and now it is the most horrible thing you’ve ever seen. People are turning their horses loose to die. They have no place to take them. It’s unbelievable. The people who closed the plants should take over the horses.

    "They should have these horses introduced to their own yards. It’s a horrible, horrible thing. Sometimes (slaughter is) the kindest thing for ‘em. How horses are dying now is ten times worse than going to the plants.

    You don’t want to know how they destroy them in Mexico."

    Link to this
  41. 41. gilletlb 9:54 pm 01/30/2010

    The wild horses in pens are in jail with no shelter from sun, flies, rain, wind and snow. Inhumane.
    There are less than 30,000 wild horses; count the zeros. there are 6-8,000,000 cattle, count the zeros. There are MILLIONS of other grazing animals. How can a few thousand horses be too many???? The whole BLM practice is insane, illegal and must be abandoned immediately.
    If enough people knew the reality it would be but the media is so controlled by corporate interests and lobbyists that they don’t realize what an abomination the BLM practices in its "management" of wild horses

    Link to this
  42. 42. sandcanyongal 6:31 am 01/31/2010

    I don’t think the animals are mistreated at the sanctuaries. Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue is a few miles up the road. The animals have plenty of shelter and room. Husband/wife/son run the rescue. They set up the sanctuary from raw land. Their adoption contract does not relinquish their ownership of the donkeys. It’s more caregiver orientedwhere the donkeys go back to them..

    What to do? A united front comprised of horse owners/fanciers is needed to stop the killing and removal of the animals. Does anyone know of an existing coalition to join forces with? How about other action ideas? It won’t end until enough people demand it stops.

    Link to this
  43. 43. gilletlb3 9:25 am 01/31/2010

    The BLM head should be beheaded for his "management" of wild horses. They should never be put in pens then tortured with no shelter from sun, rain, sind, snow, flies, ever. This is not rocket science. There are less than 30,000 horses, there are 5-8,000,000 –count the zeros- that is MILLIONS of cattle and other grazing animals. How are are few thousand horses too many???? Leave the open spaces for those who do not trash them, the horses. Get rid of too many cattlemen’s association people, get rid of developers, drilling rigs, etc. We’d then have a country forever instead of this continual raping of the wild that even our great hope, Obama, can’t stop!

    Link to this
  44. 44. sandcanyongal 9:02 pm 01/31/2010

    The corporations, cattlemen, utilities and government are in bed together and sucking the life out of the rest of us. Israel already has a contract to put solar power in the Mojave desert. Recently, China became the largest manufacturer of wind turbines. A Japanese company & investors are installing 320 turbines at the junction of the Tehachapi Mts. and Sierra’S Mts. These projects must have been in the makings for a long time. IT’S WHY THE WILDLIFE HAS BEEN REMOVED FOR YEARS. It’s the long term plan whether we want it or not. Our fighting in the middle east is all about securing access to the natural resources like oil in Iraq. Exxon & Chevron were the big winners. All of us should put our differences aside and focus on minimizing the propaganda that is polaring the citizens based on party alliances. (Divide and conquer still works.) If the mutilation of our lifelines continue we’re all screwed big time. (link: uctv.tv , click on Science then Global Warming – Charles Revelle lectures are awesome and reveal the truth.

    Link to this
  45. 45. sandcanyongal 5:57 am 02/1/2010

    26 horses die during first half of Calico Mountain roundup
    Jan. 30, 2010 | Molly Peterson | KPCC

    A federal agency is defending its efforts to round up wild horses in western lands after the deaths of 26 animals near Reno Nevada. KPCC’s Molly Peterson reports.

    The Bureau of Land Management began the roundup in late December, and it’s continuing through February.

    The agency wants to remove what it calls excess horses on federal lands in the Calico Mountains in northern Nevada near the California border.

    Federal scientists say the number of horses roaming in there is three times the lands’ carrying capacity. The government has authorized plans to gather 25-hundred horses from half a million acres of land; the roundup is about halfway done.

    Federal workers herd horses and chase them with helicopters to drive them into corrals. The land bureau had anticipated that half a percent of horses would die in the process.

    The death rate is more than 3 times that so far. Horse activists denounce the techniques herders use to gather horses. But officials with the agency officials say it’s been in the business of roundups for 4 decades – and that it’s learned how to safely conduct the roundups.

    Link to this
  46. 46. curiousaboutscience 12:12 pm 02/1/2010

    The BLM does a terrible job managing and maintaining our herds of wild horses. Their current management plan, which activists had to obtain through the Freedom of Information Act includes a variety of practices including mass slaughter, sale to brokers who deal with foreign slaughter houses, inhumane field hysterectomies and gelding surgical procedures, the use of unproven and untested sterilization drugs, and other practices. There is even a recommendation that individuals who have had to put down healthy young animals be treated for post traumatic shock syndrome.

    The BLM is tasked with the balanced use of the land, yet year after year and management plan to management plan they continue to prefer catering to the interests of ranchers and miners and other commercial users of the land. They complain that the horse populations are not checked by predators, yet ranchers and other big game hunters shoot these predators. Indeed, federal employees poison, trap and shoot many predators that might otherwise keep horse populations in check. Where populations of mountain lion and wolves are encouraged, horse population is maintained or grows at a much smaller rate 8% to 10%, because there is higher foal mortality due to predation.

    Yet, Sec. of Interior, Salazar had the wolf de-listed as an endangered species.

    Ranching on these marginal lands delivers just 3% of the beef our country brings to market, yet this intergenerational rancher welfare program costs taxpayers far too much. Horse advocates insist that the BLM continually favors cattle grazing over horses. At a 200 cattle to 1 horse ratio, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to observe that damage to the range ecosystem is due much more to cattle impacts than horse impacts. Last year, twice under oath, BLM employees went on record stating that horse impacts to the most sensitive parts of the range were "minimal."

    In a USGS study of sage brush rangelands an entire chapter is dedicated to horse impacts on the range, but in this 200 plus page document, there is no mention of cattle. There is an institutional self imposed myopia when it comes to examining the effects of ranching on these marginal lands. The ranchers and their supporters are a highly vocal pressure group, and they are also embedded in the culture of the BLM. Their friendships with big game hunters, BLM land managers and other commercial users of the land assure the removal of predator species.

    An independent, unbiased assessment is called for as well as a complete culture shift for BLM.

    Link to this
  47. 47. sandcanyongal 4:58 pm 02/1/2010

    This is proof from a State project document. Please read page 2 bottom left table of link below. They ARE removing burros to put in solar plants.

    Retire Grazing Allotments/Removal of Burros:
    Purchase assoc. private lands or specific grazing allotments and retire them in-perpetuity Removal of burros from the Clark Mountain and Dead Mountain Herd Management Areas to be included in this analysis.

    http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/ivanpah/documents/2010-01-12_CDFG_Draft_Desert_Tortoise_Mitigation-Options-Exhibit_310_TN-54761.PDF

    Link to this
  48. 48. stonehorse 6:51 pm 02/1/2010

    why did they give a goverment contract to a horse thief and a felon

    Link to this
  49. 49. sandcanyongal 5:17 am 02/3/2010

    I’m sorry this blog fizzled out… a few years they’ll be gone forever unless it’s stopped in its tracks now, not tomorrow.

    Link to this
  50. 50. sandcanyongal 4:13 am 02/15/2010

    http://archive.kpfk.org/parchive/index.php

    DogNoir Wednesday, February 10, 2010 4:00 am 0:02:22
    85 Play Download

    Wild Horse Roundup: After receiving thousands of protest emails from supporters of In Defense of Animals, officials in Washington , DC have ordered the Bureau of Land Management to postpone the roundup 200 horses living peacefully in the Confusion Mountains in Utah.

    Link to this

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