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Comments about ‘My view: Holistic approach to wild horses needed for survival’

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Published: Wednesday, Aug. 20 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

Updated: Tuesday, Aug. 19 2014 6:47 p.m. MDT

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GaryO
Virginia Beach, VA

"Herds should be thinned." Obviously the herds should be thinned, but this is the part that people can't abide.

In the eyes of many, "thinning" equates to murdering free and beautiful animals, symbols of a free and untamed America.

But it may be true that sending horses to the glue factory or the dog food plant might be less cruel than letting them starve. And what's the point in letting them overgraze land that could otherwise be used by other wild life and domestic livestock.

I suppose technology hasn't evolved to a point where we can just dart horses with a drug that renders them unable to have offspring . . .

In lieu of sterilizing a good part of them and letting them die off naturally (which would be problematic and expensive), the "thinning" is going to involve slaughtering the animals.

There's no getting around that.

jefe_naeco
Washington, DC

We've got to be stewards of our environment, just like we have to weed our gardens to produce fruit. It's our responsibility to be involved in nature, just letting nature take its course like so many environmentalists would have us only leads us to having...weeds.

Completely agree with the author.

Survival of the fittest and common sense animal husbandry? Yes.

Laurel Hutch
orlando area, FL

While I believe your concern for the environment is real, your solution turns a blind eye to the real problem. The few hundred Wild Horses and their ancestors have been there for Millennia, co*existing with other Native Wildlife.
The problem is that there are too many domestic grazing animals on the range. There are thousands of cattle and sheep. One Hundred domestic Grazing animals are on the range, for every one Wild Horse. And they are often grazing illegally on the Wild Horses' dedicated grazing land, despite drought conditions. These huge numbers of domestic livestock need to be cut. They are over-grazing and destroying the land. Science has proven that these Domestic Livestock are the problem, not the Wild Horses.
By Law, those domestic livestock numbers are supposed to be cut during times of drought. That is not happening, due to both Lobbyist pressures and this 'Welfare Rancher' sense of entitlement to Federal Lands. That is the real problem, that Wild Horses are being blamed for.

GaryO
Virginia Beach, VA

Hey Laurel Hutch -

"These huge numbers of domestic livestock need to be cut."

I understand your point of view, but if you get your way, aren't we just delaying the inevitable.

If every last domestic animal is removed from Federal Lands, allowing horses to increase in number, what are we going to do when they've increased to a point where the grass will not sustain them?

They have no natural predators. The only thing that can controls there numbers is starvation.

Should we just get rid of all the domestic animals, wait a decade or two, and THEN thin the horse herds?

Why not just do it now? . . . And let other wildlife have a shot at survival out there?

. . . And let ranchers run their cattle there LEGALLY (No Cliven Bundy's).

How many wild horses should we have? A few thousand? A few hundred thousand? A few million?

If they become as thick as rats in a dump, they're not going to be thought of as an ideal of American freedom anymore, are they?

Shane Destry
Turley/Texas County, MO

It is impossible that wild horses as opposed to cattle are overgrazing since cattle outnumber wild horses by a factor of more than thirty to one. It is impossible that wild horses are overpopulating. Herd size does not double every twenty years, a frequently repeated lie, as that is foaling rate and half of all foals die before age one. Under duress from drought and
harassment by cattlemen/BLM, many herds have zero foals born in a given year. "Holistic" is a buzz word of insincerity trying to imply the writer is linked to some environmental concern.
An ex rodeo queen, a "sport" predicated on people being entertained by the suffering of horses and cattle, is not likely to be a sincere advocate of promoting the welfare of horses ! Vapid rodeo queens may concern themselves about shallow concerns about whether they think wild horses look like "scruffy alley cats". Real people and real environmentalists are concerned that wild horses are being managed into extinction precisely by the insincere sophistry being spouted by ex rodeo queens.

GaryO
Virginia Beach, VA

Hey Shane Destry -

"Real people and real environmentalists are concerned that wild horses are being managed into extinction precisely by the insincere sophistry being spouted by ex rodeo queens."

It isn't sophistry to recognize the fact that wild horses explode in population if left unchecked.

Horses are an invasive species in the western hemisphere.

The Spanish lost a few horses in Mexico the 1500's, and by the early 1600's, horses are so numerous that Indian tribes on the North American plains have become a horse culture.

Thinning horse herds by killing them was a matter of course until the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 was signed into law by Nixon. Arranging for horse adoptions became the preferred method of thinning, but that method has reached saturation levels.

Either a few thousand wild horses can be thinned by killing them now in the next few years, or we can wait a few decades and euthanize a few HUNDRED thousand, or just let them starve.

Horses certainly aren't going to be driven into extinction.

Look, we cannot spay and neuter them like dogs and cats. What other choice is there?

Maxlynn
Schwenksville, PA

While I believe that you believe you are concerned for the equines it is a known fact that Ranchers pay $1.35 per AUM to graze their livestock on BLM and Forest Service lands, the lowest allowable under law, 1/16th of market rate, thanks to our tax subsidies. Average monthly lease rates for grazing on private lands in 11 western states in 2011 was $16.80 per head. BLM issues 17,869 permits to run livestock, authorizing a maximum of 12.5 million AUMs. The Forest Service issues 6,289 permits to livestock operators, authorizing a maximum of 8.5 million AUMs, a combined total of 24,158 permits and 21 million AUMs or an equivalent of 1,750,000 cows or 8,750,000 sheep. By contrast the government has set a maximum allowable level of just 26,500 for wild equines. You tell me who is overgrazing rangelands, not to mention wild horses are scientifically recognized for restoring range-lands, boosting biodiversity and helping the return of a wider variety of plants and invertebrates to the lands where they roam. Overpopulation is a myth created by welfare ranchers to protect their investments as NAS confirms 10% or less for horses. They simply want horses off the range - PERIOD.

Maxlynn
Schwenksville, PA

And by the way Gary O, science has in fact progressed to the point where you can dart a horse for birth control. There are several methods of reversible birth control out there but BLM refuses to use them and refuses advocates the right to use them to manage herds in their areas. They want to perform ovarectormies on mares and geld stallions. Since 1988, the wild horse population of Maryland’s Assateague Island has been successfully controlled using a contraceptive vaccine (PZP), administered via remote darting and does not disrupt the complex social structure of wild herds which would eliminate the need for costly and traumatic round-ups as well as save millions of tax dollars, while ensuring genetic diversity. 70% or our herds are now below genetic viability thanks to the "management" of BLM.

Overpopulation? For twenty-five years the Montgomery Pass herd, on the California/Nevada border, have survived unmanaged, and through natural attrition have maintained stable population levels of roughly 150 to 200 animals through effective range management. Effective range management, birth control and reducing livestock on the range would solve all our problems. Don't talk about having to thin hers when you know don't have the facts.

Laurel Hutch
orlando area, FL

"The Spanish lost a few horses in Mexico the 1500's" ... Not true. Read your history. The Spanish deliberately released livestock. They routinely did that since they were planning to 'harvest them' when they returned. The Horses flourished on the plains, perhaps because that is where they had evolved to live. They reclaimed their natural niche in the ecosphere Cattle flourished in the Southeastern woods. Pigs Spread through those woods too.
Even now, when science has studied the coexistence of wildlife with Wild Horses, the western wildlife peacefully coexist with Wild Horses, but are 'driven off' by the presence of cattle and sheep. I could post a scientific source with more than twenty scientific articles to back those facts up, but this system does not allow me to do that.

GaryO
Virginia Beach, VA

Hey Maxlynn -

". . . the wild horse population of Maryland’s Assateague Island has been successfully controlled using a contraceptive vaccine (PZP), administered via remote darting."

Cool!

Well there's our solution then.

There are estimated to be over 40,000 feral horses existent in the Western United States.

If we can equip . . . Say 50 small drones with semi-automatic dart guns and horse-recognition software . . . then we could dart all but 10,000 or so of them over the course of a few years, and our horse-overpopulation problems will be solved through natural attrition.

Of course, since we're also doing some selective breeding here, these autonomous drones must be equipped with an ability to judge superior horse flesh.

I think we could justify this Constitutionally as a matter of national defense.

Not only would this give our military much needed practice in drone design and the implementation of drone strategy and tactics, we would also be creating a condensed gene pool of rugged horses able to subsist on minimal provisioning . . . And that would provide our special forces with the best possible cavalry mounts.

. . . You see how everything seems to work out for the best?

Laurel Hutch
orlando area, FL

Plain facts:
-- Roughly 50,000 Wild Horses are inadequately housed in Holding Pens without basic shelter that would be required if those horses were adopted. It is time to have a moratorium on capturing Wild Horses. There is no more room to 'store' them. Too many Wild Horses have already been removed, because of this blame game, a few hundred at a time.
-- It is time to start removing thousands of Cattle and Sheep from federal wildlife areas which are presently in severe drought. Real Ranchers that own the land that their livestock is grown on have had to do that, across the west, because of this severe drought. There is no longer enough forage for them, so take them off the land.
-- Wildlife Biologists are already successfully and properly managing wild horses in the National Park Service (NPS) at Theodore Roosevelt National Park with injectable birth control. It can be done, and done far more economically than the present program of wild west helicopter round-ups, catch and hold.

Diana Kline
Kansas City, MO

Gary O, according to fossil evidence, modern horse originated in North America and then spread though out the rest of the world from here. We also now have fossil evidence that horses did not die out in North America during the last glacial period, commonly known as the Ice Age.

A better explanation is that horses never died out in North America. That's what the Lakota and Dakota say, anyway. Their oral tradition is that they had horses at the time the Europeans arrived.

Horses, therefore, are a native species to North America and should be re-classified as such.

Diana Kline
Kansas City, MO

Also, Gary O., horses do have natural predators -- some species of bears, such as Grizzly bears; cougars, wolves and jaguars. Also, packs of coyotes and take them down. You need to take a good hard look at the facts before you start typing on this subject. Why don't you try Googling the following:

"wild horse roundups undermined by new blm data"

"how much public land in us"

We have more than enough land to support the few remaining wild horses and burros that are left on the range. The number we have left are critically low.

cliff claven
cedar city , UT

By the looks of the horse advocates comments, there is no compromise, and therefore no solution.

A hollistic approach would identify horse advocates for what they are and put them on the ignore list.

Prodicus
Provo, UT

Calling them "wild horses" already completely misses the point.

Horses were extinct in the Americas for tens of thousands of years. The horses living here now are feral, not wild; every one is descended from domesticated horses brought here by Europeans. They are a nuisance invasive species and the ecosystem is simply not capable of handling them well. There is no natural predator capable of keeping the feral horse population in check at all.

Environmentalists, ranchers, and anyone else willing to look at this logically should be able to agree that the only reasonable long-term way of dealing with the feral horse population is to repeal the 1959 and 1971 laws that made "mustanging" illegal and allow people to remove this invasive species from public lands entirely. If someone wants to have an enclosed private mustang reserve, fine and dandy. Keep them out of the wilds and out of the ranchlands.

The opposing position is only an appeal to emotion. It's the same impulse as the "cat lady" who feeds a hundred feral cats because she feels for the poor hungry animals, not being willing to admit that she's the source of the problem.

Prodicus
Provo, UT

What's the relevant difference between wild horses and any of the following?

Burmese pythons in the Everglades
Asian Longhorned Beetles in the Eastern US
Asian Tiger Mosquitos throughout the US
Zebra mussels which have devastated North American lakes since their arrival 25 years ago
Black rats in New Zealand

Answer: mustangs are more "romantic" and therefore have plenty of advocates with enough political power to pass laws to protect them. That's all.

Diana Kline
Kansas City, MO

Cliff, we don't need a "solution" to an imaginary problem of too many wild horses and burros. Right now we have too few wild horses and burros. We need a moratorium on all roundups/gathers for at least 10 years to regain genetic viability in many of our wild horse and burro herds.

4601
Salt Lake City, UT

These horses and burros are feral animals that should not compete with deer, elk, bighorn sheep and other native fauna. Livestock is a benefit to society when they become food stuffs and leather. Horses are not. The idea that feral horses in Utah have natural enemies that can effectively control their population is simply a fantasy. People on the eastern seaboard should learn where wolves and grizzlies live. If the advocates of feral horses/burros love them and want to preserve them, organize yourselves and buy land for a preserve. That is the way to demonstrate your sincerity, not lecturing Utahns on romantic thoughts of the Old West.

Maxlynn
Schwenksville, PA

The propaganda you spout has been created by groups of ranchers, hunters and other exploiters of nature who are opposed to keeping wild horses & burros in the wild. Equids perform many ecological services. Equids have postgastric digestive systems that restore the soils and seed many species of plants as they constantly move about, often roaming hundreds of miles in a week, more evenly distributing their grazing pressure. They also eat large amount of brush that cause many of the devastating wild fires in the West. On the other hand millions of cattle & sheep ravage vegetation, soil, streams & riverbanks, and are given the hog's share of the forage on the vast majority of our public lands, including in the very areas that are principally designated for equids. Bovid cattle & sheep rip the grasses & other herbs from the ground using their tongues, lower teeth and hard upper palates, and the animals often cluster in large numbers in areas near streams or lakes, resulting in overgrazing, overtrampling and pollution. Who is really causing the damage? So sad the public buys into this...

Maxlynn
Schwenksville, PA

And by the way, have you ever heard of the Yukon horse? "It is genetically identical with the modern horse and reveals the present day horse to be one of the most deeply rooted and justifiable natives in North America. This is substantiated by its large geographic distribution upon this continent which is evidenced by fossil record and the great variety of ecosystems in which it can adapt and live. Today's horse traces back 2 million years in its present form, but actually should be regarded in the continuous context of equid evolution that dates back 58 million years." (Craig Downer) Native enough for you??

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