Better horse sense needed by BLM to manage herds

Scanning the news headlines this past weekend, my eyes were naturally drawn to the headline, “BLM Advisory Board Recommends Euthanasia for 45,000 Wild Horses and Burros.” Opening the link to the Humane Society of The United States at, I was initially exasperated reading the article.

The Bureau of Land Management Advisory Board meeting was held in Elko, Nevada, on Sept. 8 and 9. According to the article, because of the surging wild horse and burro population currently maintained in government holding facilities, the simplest method of reducing the burgeoning populace would be culling. Shaking my head, as I often do these days reading news headlines, I delved deeper into the story.

The article cited long-term mismanagement within the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program. Stating that alternative measures to control the noble animal’s population have been ignored for more than 20 years, the society lashed out at the agency’s ineptness. The organization claimed the BLM has effectively created an avoidable catastrophe through its approach of capturing and removing animals as increased herd size compromised range land.

Trying to get a better understanding of the situation, I went over to the BLM’s website at Historically, the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was implemented to protect and manage the wild horse and burro populations. The agency initially managed more than 25,000 wild horses and burros roaming over 53,000 million acres in designated Herd Areas.

The managed horse program has developed different strategies throughout the years to maintain both herds and the natural ecosystem of the range. Their rationale of management, however, has resulted in a clear dilemma. There are now more than67,000 wild horses and burros residing on 31.6 million acres in the care of the BLM.

There are four specific range lands, including the Little Bookcliff Range, where animal populations are closely monitored. As the herd increases, animals are removed and placed in herd management areas located on public lands maintained by the BLM. There are many volunteers who work closely with the agency, such as our local Friends of the Mustangs, who assist in adoption programs and training.

The BLM website explains how they sponsor significant research programs focused on fertility control, work in partnerships with other agencies and adoption efforts while relying on qualified science and technology staff in addition to the citizen-based advisory board. 

Unfortunately, the BLM’s methods seemingly have not adequately benefited the wild horses and burros. Now on the chopping block are 45,000 lives, because the agency that was delegated to maintain and protect these iconic creatures is unable to provide a better solution.

I find it incredibly ironic that the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was created to shield the animals from human predators that were massacring the species. Less than 50 years later, human intervention by an advisory board suggests an even greater extermination.

The Bureau of Land Management posted the following comment on their website Thursday in response to the recommendation of their advisory board:

“The BLM is committed to having healthy horses on healthy rangelands. We will continue to care for and seek good homes for animals that have been removed from the range.

“The BLM does not and will not euthanize healthy animals. The agency continues to seek new and better tools for managing the nation’s quickly expanding population of wild horses.”

Charlé Thibodeau has been a passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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