It is a crime that earlier this month someone shot and killed a 14-year-old wild horse in the Swasey Herd Management Area in Utah and we hope that person is brought to justice.

In the meantime it is hypocritical for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to be offering a $2,000 reward for information about the crime. “Harassing, capturing or killing wild horses is illegal,” said Kevin Oliver, West District manager. “The government protects these animals and the BLM is committed to enforcing their rules and finding those responsible.”

News flash for the BLM—you are also guilty of crimes against wild horses, because your calculation of excess is not based on science or protecting wild horses, but instead is designed to protect the health of the range, which is artificially limited to ensure thousands of cattle and sheep are allowed to graze on public lands. Of the 245 million acres of public land managed by the BLM, 155 million is open to livestock grazing. 

Another way the BLM is guilty of harassing wild horses is by forcibly drugging wild mares with the fertility pesticide porcine zona pellucida (PZP). Making matters worse, the BLM recently announced it will initiate 21 research projects aimed at developing new tools for managing wild horses, including developing longer lasting fertility-control vaccines, as well as methods for spaying and neutering wild horses. The BLM anticipates the total cost of the projects to be $11 million over 5 years.

Such projects will never come to fruition if FoA has anything to say about it. In May FoA filed a legal petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requesting the agency consider new scientific evidence demonstrating the need to cancel the registration of PZP for population control of America’s wild horses and burros, which was issued to the Humane Society of the United States in 2012. Information is now available to the EPA regarding the unintended—and previously undisclosed—side effects on both targeted mares and wild horses in general. It not only shows unreasonable adverse effects, but also indicates the use of PZP on wild horses likely violates the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971 (WHBA).

FoA is adamant that new studies indicate that PZP use is harassing, and even killing, wild horses in ways not considered as part of the initial registration process. While it is true that the WHBA provides for an exception from general mandates to protect wild horses to control their populations, this exception is both narrow (the animal must be deemed “excess”) and can only be applied if the implementing agency first completes certain statutory requirements. 

With regards to the decision to dose a particular mare, the implementing agencies can comply with the WHBA. However, the other horses in the herd that are not dosed with PZP as well as the unborn foals cannot be legally defined as “excessive” and, thus, the risk of harassment or death to these animals posed by PZP violates the WHBA.

(Photo Via Salt Lake Tribune)