Ep #6: The Pryor Mountain Herd: Interview with Ginger KathrensApril 17, 2023
Ep #7: Wild Beauty: Interview with Ashley AvisMay 1, 2023
On March 15, 2023 the Bureau of Land Management published an Environmental Assessment with a plan to roundup wild horses in the Pryor Mountains of Montana, one of America’s most beloved herds and the last remaining wild horse herd in Montana. All of the other herds that used to be in Montana have been zeroed out. You can read the plan for yourself here: https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/1502632/570
The current Appropriate Management Level for this herd is 98-120 wild horses. Currently there are approximately 200 wild horses and the BLM’s preferred plan is to remove 50 wild horses this year, bringing the herd size to 150 horses this year, then removing more horses over subsequent years to arrive at their goal, 98 wild horses, low AML.
The very first problem with this plan is that in order to remain genetically viable, Dr. Gus Cothan who is the leading geneticist on wild horses says that there must be 150 breeding aged adults at minimum to remain genetically viable. Smaller numbers can lead to inbreeding and health issues for the herd, damaging its ability to survive long term. And while the BLM may argue, oh we can bring in horses from other herds, it is not so simple. The Pryors is a very challenging area for wild horses to live and those not born there are going to have difficulty adapting. Plus, there are distinct characteristics that distinguish this herd, and all of the different herds across the West should be managed to preserve the distinct characteristics of wild horses in the different herds.
This is a herd whose numbers have been successfully managed for decades using birth control, specifically PZP. In recent years, the management of the birth control program by the BLM has been extremely inconsistent. It would be much better to take the resources that will be used for a roundup to organize a birth control program but using PZP, which is reversible NOT Gonacon, which has been proved to sterilize wild mares. They also propose to change the natural sex ration of the horses from 50% mares – 50% stallions to weighted to more stallions. This random and unproven method of changing the natural proportion has never accomplished keeping herds numbers low – it instead introduces instability and aggression in the social structures of the herd.
The population of the Pryor Mountain horses is an aging one. There are 58 horses over 15 years old, and 22 of these are over 20. It is to be expected that the older horses passing away over time will naturally bring the numbers down. And removing older horses is an act of extreme cruelty. They have a more difficult time adapting to a captive situation and are more at risk of ending up at slaughter given that they will be sold as Sale Authority, without protection.
The Bureau of Land Management never takes into account in any of the plans the ultimate fate of those horses they remove from their homes and their families. Wild horses are always safer in their homes, on the range, with their families. There are not enough adopters to take all the horses that the BLM is proposing to roundup and remove this year, and with the failed Adoption Incentive program giving adopters $1000 to take them, so many hundreds of wild horses are ending up at slaughter auctions.
In order to accommodate a larger number of horses than the BLM’s current AML allows, two areas – Demijohn Flats and Sorenson Expansion allotments where wild horses used to range – should be added back to the range. Then the wild horses that currently live in the Pryor Mountains could remain wild and free as they should be.
You can watch my interview with Ginger Kathrens, Founder of the Cloud Foundation regarding this plan here:
I am recommending Alternative 4 the No Action Alternative. The Bureau of Land Management needs to go back to the drawing board with their plans and should not do a roundup and removal this year.
Comments are due Friday, April 28 by Midnight MT. We need as many people as possible commenting as possible. Please comment in your own words and do not use a form to comment – the BLM counts those comments as 1. You are welcome to use my suggestions in this post to inform your comments. Please comment using the form below or by mail – comments made on this blog post will not be accepted by the BLM.
You can submit your comments online here:
Use the Green Participate Now button.
Or you can submit comment by mail to:
Montana/Dakotas Bureau of Land Management
Billings Field Office
5001 Southgate Drive
Billings, MT 59101
These wild horses need your help and support to remain wild and free. Thank you for caring about them.