Wild Horses in the North Lander Complex Herds in Danger of Extinction
The Bureau of Land Management’s Lander, Wyoming Field Office has released a Scoping Document for the North Lander Complex in Wyoming. The most current population count has the numbers of the wild horses in the North Lander Complex to be 1026. They do not differentiate between foals and adult horses in their number, they say 1016 “individuals,” so it is misleading – the BLM is not supposed to count the current year’s foal crop because mortality is high for foals in their first year.
Here are the four Herd Management Areas in the 375,000 acre Complex:
Conant Creek, Dishpan Butte, Muskrat Basin, Rock Creek Mountain
They call it a “complex” because “there is no geographic separation of the HMAs and the gates between them are left open a significant part of the year.”
This is the excuse given for bringing the numbers in 3 of the 4 herds down way below the level needed for genetic viability. However, if there is no separation at all, why are there four different herd management areas?
Horses tend to stay in familiar areas, areas they know where the waterholes, shelter and grazing are located. I would seriously doubt that there is very much intermixing of herds – when visiting the Red Desert Complex, where there are adjacent areas, the horses tend to stay in their range, and there is very little intermixing.
The last roundup in the North Lander Complex was in November, 2012. They rounded up 754 wild horses, treated mares with PZP, returned 346 wild horses to the Complex, and 5 wild horses died.
They plan to bring the herds down to these numbers:
Conant Creek 60
Dishpan Butte 50
Muskrat Basin 160
Rock Creek Mountain 50
and end up with a total number of horses for the North Lander Complex of 310.
According to Gus Cothran, the leading geneticist for wild horses, a herd needs a population of at least 150 adults to maintain genetic viability. This plan of the BLM’s which not only brings all but one of the herds down to dangerously low levels also includes giving birth control to all the mares that are released. If the herds are at dangerously low levels it makes absolutely no sense at all to give them birth control. Herds below the minimum number of wild horses for genetic viability should NOT be given any type of birth control. That is dooming them to extinction.
The other issue is that fall is the exact wrong time of year to give PZP to the mares – it should be done in January – March to ensure that it works – they are planning the roundup for the fall of 2017.
They are planning to use helicopters to round up the horses – using helicopters to terrify wild horses so that they run into traps and injure themselves is cruel and inhumane. If they need to round the horses up they should use the far more humane and far less costly method of bait trapping. And they need to keep the families of horses together – this is much less stressful for the horses.
My recommendation is to not remove any of the wild horses from the North Lander Complex, keep the herds at genetically viable levels, and to use bait trapping to round them up and give birth control to the mares at the correct time of the year. If they are going to give them PZP they need to follow up in the next few years because otherwise they will not be able to maintain the numbers of the wild horses. Management of these wild horses should be done on the range. Wild Horses should not be removed from their families and their homes and warehoused at holding facilities with no shelter where they become a burden on the taxpayer and are likely to end up at slaughter. Yes, the Scoping Documents and Environmental Assessments should include what happens the the wild horses that the BLM proposes to remove after they are removed – this is extremely relevant to the action that they are proposing.
Please comment by January 31, 2017 by 4pm Mountain Time, and use your own words – the BLM counts the group emails that you sign your name to as one.
Here is the scoping document:
and here is where you can send your comments: