By TERRI FARLEY
To The Desert Independent
June 27, 2017
For decades, the Department of Interior has taken America's wild horses off public lands to "restore the range." Know why that doesn't work? Wild horses aren't to blame, but Secretary Zinke may neglect to mention the impacts of livestock and extractive industries on the environment.
Budget 2018 calls for killing all wild horses and burros in Bureau of Land Management holding pens. That's about 44,000 equines according to BLM, and the roundups continue, this month. BLM records show more mustangs "gathered" in the first three months of 2017 than were captured in all of 2016.
Few voters want wild horses killed, but they’re bombarded by myths which infer there's no choice.
Myth 1: There are no natural predators to control wild horse population.
Wild horses still have natural predators, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services works hard to change that. In 2016 the agency placated commercial livestock interests by killing 76,963 adult coyotes, destroyed 430 coyote dens containing uncounted pups, 3,791 foxes and 128 pup dens, 997 bobcats, 415 gray wolves, 407 black bears and 334 mountain lions.
Source: Sources are many, varying from L.A. Times to Ag department’s website
Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
Myth 2: Wild Horses damage the range unlike livestock whose grazing is controlled by man.
Wild horses’ digestive systems don't process seeds. The seed-bearing food they eat is replanted in their droppings. Fertilizer + seeds = inadvertent farmers. Because mustangs are nomadic, they do their own rotational grazing, moving where their food is in bloom. In theory, livestock is rotated, but ranchers whose livestock grazes public lands are often allowed to “self-monitor."
Range restoration by wild horses is recognized in places outside the U.S. Patagonia's reintroduction of wild horses has slowed and sometimes even stopped desertification by sheep.
Natural equine behavior is easier on riparian areas than that of livestock. As prey animals, wild horses normally drink from the edge instead of wading in and defecating in bodies of water.
Myth 3: Wild horses overpopulate public lands.
Estimates vary (National Academy of Sciences criticized Bureau of Land Management's sketchy data-gathering), but BLM admits commercial livestock outnumbers wild horses on public lands by at least 30‑1.
Wild horses that aren't removed have been pushed from historic territories into limited public lands habitat. In the last 5 decades, other uses – including corporate ranching, gas, oil and mining – have claimed 22.2 million acres.
Myth 4: Wild Horses are not native to North America.
Modern science, especially DNA testing, contradicts this myth. Paleolithic horses and modern equines share the same DNA. BLM’s website encourages acceptance of old science, claiming "horses disappearance from the Western Hemisphere for over 10,000 years," despite facts that prove the window of "gone time" has narrowed to 7,000 years.
Source: Dr. Beth Shapiro Dr. Ross MacPhee https://pgl.soe.ucsc.edu/research.html
Myth 5: Wild Horse Management by BLM is humane.
Interior Department websites have recently been data cleansed, but 2010 helicopter round-ups in the Calico Mountains of Nevada were well-documented. BLM reported 113 deaths from broken pelvic bones, necks, skulls and spines, ruptured eyeballs, hoof slough, and birthing “accidents” in which 40 mares suffered spontaneous miscarriages and bore dead foals. BLM claims not to sell captured mustangs to slaughter, but the Office of the Inspector General found 1700 wild horses were sold to a single kill-buyer 2008-2012.