Citizen Board Says Federal Government Should Consider Spaying Wild Horses to Control Numbers
The federal agency charged with managing wild horses and burros that roam freely across 11 Western states should consider sterilizing some mares to control booming mustang populations and protect rangelands, a citizen advisory panel recommended Tuesday.
The Bureau of Land Management has long struggled with how to manage growing horse herds on public lands, which can double naturally within five years if left unchecked. Horses have been injected with drugs and vaccines to slow reproduction and rounded up for adoption, but the agency currently has more horses in captivity than are left roaming the range, forcing the emphasis to shift to population control rather than roundups.
Nearly 60 percent of the agency’s entire budget for the wild horse program is spent on housing horses.
Drugs currently used to slow reproduction in wild horse herds must be re-administered regularly because they only work for about a year, and drugs that work longer have not yet been approved for use on wild horses, said Dr. Boyd Spratling, a veterinarian from Deeth, Nev. and chairman of the bureau’s Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board.
Herd sizes can double naturally within five years if left unchecked.
Instead, spaying horses — or surgically removing the ovaries of older mares — eliminates the need for frequent roundups for adoption or to administer drugs, he said. Younger mares could still foal, allowing for genetic diversity in herds.