They spay horses, 
don’t they?

A citizens panel that advises the Bureau of Land Management on its wild horse and burro program has suggested permanently sterilizing older mares in many mustang herds to decrease the number of foals born each year and gradually reduce the problem of overpopulated wild horse ranges.

It’s an idea that makes sense for many wild horse herds, where too many horses are causing a multitude of problems.

For the record, it’s probably not necessary locally. The BLM here and the Friends of the Mustangs group have been very successful in controlling the population in the Little Bookcliffs Wild Horse Range northeast of Grand Junction by using darts to temporarily block fertility. But the Little Bookcliffs is much smaller than many wild horse ranges, the horses are easier to find and shoot with the anti-fertility darts, and the Friends group provides invaluable volunteer help to the BLM in controlling reproduction.

The same conditions don’t exist on many ranges, so mustang populations continue to grow and exceed carrying capacity.

Capturing mares and surgically removing their ovaries is a reasonable idea for helping to deal with the wild-horse overload. The surgery is frequently performed on domestic horses with great success.

No surprise, some wild horse advocacy groups are already challenging the proposal, saying the surgery could be too risky if performed in holding corrals, and too traumatic.

But let’s review the numbers. Some 47,000 mustangs are now being cared for in BLM holding facilities after being removed from their ranges to reduce overpopulation. Most have no chance at adoption and are likely to spend the rest of their days in these corrals.

Roughly 60 percent of the BLM’s budget for wild horses and burros now goes to feed and care for the horses in holding facilities, significantly reducing what is available to actually maintain and improve ranges. That figure will only continue to grow — or more wild horses will starve to death on their ranges — unless something is done to reduce herd growth.

Sterilization is a sensible way to move toward that goal. It is far more humane that the alternatives.


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