Of Horse

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Will the Wild Horse Soon be an Iconic Memory?
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Will the Wild Horse Soon be an Iconic Memory?

Wild horses in Nevada, Wyoming and Utah have grazed lands reserved for cattle for years. In past decades, the horses have been rounded up by cars and airplanes for slaughter or capture. Ranchers were accused of pouring poison into water holes to brutally kill off the wild horses in an agonizing death. A national campaign was launched to protect wild horses from cruel demise.

In 1971, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act was enacted by Congress. The act stated that only agents of the Bureau of Land Management could legally round-up the horses. The ranchers complain that the horses are depleting public land of valuable grasses. Many environmentalists believe the Bureau of Land Management acts on behalf of ranchers.

Currently, there are approximately 47,000 wild horses with about half of the horses roaming in Nevada. The bureau believes the land can only sustain about 26,000 wild horses. Environmentalists believe that a further depletion of wild horses could lead to a lack of genetic diversity and eventual extinction of this iconic symbol of the wild west.

The Bureau of Land Management reports almost 50,000 horses in storage. Some of the horses are put up for adoption; however, it is cheaper to store a horse than to arrange for an adoption. Horses are quickly multiplying on the range due to a lack of storage and funds. The agency projects that the number of free range horses will expand to 100,000 by 2019 at the current rate.

Some ranchers are lobbying politicians to slaughter the excess horses. The ranchers believe this would free up storage space to enable the Bureau of Land Management to continue round-ups. Congress has repeatedly refused the proposal.

Environmentalists and horse enthusiasts claim the ranchers are blaming the horses for the depletion of grazing when both wild horses and cattle have contributed to the diminishing grass supply. Horse advocacy groups state, “the horses are vastly outnumbered by cattle.” The advocacy groups agree with the bureau that the present method of round-ups and storage is unsustainable.

According to the bureau reducing the number of wild range horses to 26,000 will ensure the wild horses do not starve and maintain lands for ranchers. The bureau states that approximately $50 million is spent to pay contractors to store the captured horses in feedlots or pastures each year. Round-ups have been cut by 80% in 2014 due to lack of funds. On average, the bureau gathers approximately 9,000 horses each year; however, the goal for 2014 is to round-up only 2,500 wild horses.


*Royalty free photo courtesy of Brian Eager on Flickr's Creative Commons. 

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  1. TomCat
    Good article but a sad situation. Tough call whichever way.
    1. Archippus
      Thanks TomCat! I didn't even know that this article had posted myself. Your vote and comment is appreciated!
  2. pftsusan
    No one has the right to kill any of them.
    1. Archippus
      I agree with you Susan! I believe that there are a lot of people that would be glad to give homes to the extra horses. The firemen of Chincoteague Island are able to auction the wild horses there off for profit to keep the volunteer fire station on the island running. I do not see why our government cannot do the same! Thanks for your support!
  3. Charlotte
    I hope this isn't the end of the wild horse. They are so beautiful in their natural environment running free.
    1. Archippus
      The government and ranchers want to keep the number down to 26,000. Again, I do not understand why it costs for them to auction a horse off. I think the government should be able to make a profit on auctioning some of the horses to good homes and use that money to provide for the other horses. Thanks for your support and thoughts Charlotte!
  4. liz48170
    Sad situation but no, the wild horse will live on. On Indian reservation land, there are thousands and thousands of wild horses, that roam about untouched. When the cross over into non Indian Reservation then they are a part of the problem. Given that we do have private and Indian Reservation land with wild creatures such as horses, the wild horse will live on ....................
    1. Archippus
      I sure hope so Liz! I believe that the excess number of horses could be auctioned at a profit to support the remaining herds. I don't understand why it would cost the government to hold an auction instead of profiting. The volunteer firefighters hold an auction every year on Chincoteague Island. They earn enough money to support the volunteer fire department each year.

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