Friends of Animals has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Oregon challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) decision to move forward with its Warm Springs’ mare sterilization experiment and 10-year management plan.

“What is so appalling about this is BLM already knows that ovariectomies performed on female wild horses can result in a high frequency of complications and even death. Plus they fundamentally alter their free-roaming natural behaviors and forces them into a zoo-like setting,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals.

The sterilization experiment—which is so egregious Colorado State University (CSU) withdrew from it in August— authorizes close to all of the approximately 800 wild horses in the Warm Springs Herd Management Area (HMA) to be ripped from their families and homes on federal public lands so BLM can research the effects of spaying wild horse mares and returning them to the range.

Of those rounded up, 200 would be selected to return to the range. The selected horses would be divided into two groups of 100 (a control group and a treatment group). Each group would consist of 50 males and 50 females, and about 60 percent of the mares in the treatment group would be spayed.

Another 70 mares would be spayed and kept in captivity to “improve the quantification of the complication rate of the surgical procedure,” according to the BLM.

Without CSU, the sterilization experiment will no longer include a professor of equine surgery, an animal welfare specialist or a research scientist. Plus, the veterinarians performing the ovariectomies would be contracted by BLM rather than CSU. Finally, the pain and welfare observations that CSU planned to conduct will no longer take place.

Additionally, BLM’s 10-year-plan authorizes multiple roundups, removals, ovariectomies and possible use of the fertility pesticide porcine zona pellucida (PZP) for the next 10 years or more.
“By conducting an unethical and ill-informed experiment on healthy wild horses in an area with plentiful forage for all species; by ignoring its obligations to manage wild horses at the minimal feasible level and by refusing to allow the wild horses within Warm Springs HMA to maintain their wild and free-roaming behavior, BLM is in violation of law,” said Courtney McVean, an attorney for FoA’s Wildlife Law Program. “This horrific decision cannot stand.”
The BLM’s artificially low appropriate management level for the Warm Springs herd is a measly 111-202 wild horses. However, 6,134 cattle are allowed to graze in the West Warm Springs and East Warm Springs grazing allotments, which are located in the Warm Springs HMA.