“Spaying domestic horses in sterile, hospital conditions is one thing, and it is not a common practice. But most large animal veterinarians agree that the surgical environment needs to be completely sterile and recovery time is at least a month – this is NOT a suitable procedure to do in the field, on wild mares. The risk of infection and death is far too high. Some of the mares may die from shock. I do not care if they plan to submit their plans to the Colorado State University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (which by the way, mainly reviews laboratory procedures) prior to the spaying, it is too dangerous, inhumane, cruel, and certain to result in the senseless death of many wild mares.” – Carol Walker
by Carol Walker
My first visit to the White Mountain Herd Management Area in Wyoming was in November of 2006. This herd is touted as a tourist attraction by the State of Wyoming, with its “loop tour” that is easily accessible to visitors to the town of Rock Springs. You might imagine that being a tourist attraction would save this herd from molestation, given that tourism is Wyoming’s 3rd largest source of income. But think again. http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/field_offices/Rock_Springs/wildhorses/tour.html
At the time of my visit, plans were already in the works to roundup and remove most of the horses in 2007. I had no trouble finding horses, even though the Herd Management Area itself is almost 400,00o acres. There were horses in the southern and in the northern parts of the area, and the family bands were large – this is a hallmark of a herd that has not been rounded up for a few years. The dominant stallions tend to accumulate large families, and watching the interactions of the mares and youngsters and stallions in these large families is amazing. I found healthy, beautiful families of wild horses, and my favorite encounter of this trip was with a very proud and beautiful bay roan stallion with a large family. He stopped and looked at me, making sure to be between me and his family, and I was captivated by him.
I visit this herd about once a year, but I never saw him again after the roundup. Imagining that proud and beautiful stallion in a holding facility still makes my heart hurt. They removed 654 of the 817 wild horses in White Mountain, and the mares returned to the area were given PZP, a one year birth control drug. There was no follow up with the birth control for the mares. It was too much trouble for the BLM to go into the field and keep darting the mares each year in order to keep the population in check. It was much easier to just round them up again in 3-4 years and remove most of the horses.
In 2011 the herd was again rounded up, and this time they removed 696 wild horses, leaving 209 wild horses, with the sex ratio of stallions to mares skewed, releaseing 98 stallions and 51 mares. In the wild, the ratio of stallions to mares ends up being about 50-50. One of the BLM’s unproven brilliant ideas is that the population will grow less if there are less mares than stallions. In my experience, all it does is create more turmoil, as the stallions spend more time battling other stallions and defending or winning the much fewer number of mares. The mares were also given PZP-22, a two year birth control drug. Again, despite this being a small herd and easy to find and approach, the BLM did not follow up and administer birth control every one or two years to keep the population in check.
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