Humane Group Seeks BLM Mustang Management Changes

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has asked the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to revise its standard operating procedures to make mustang gathers more humane and transparent via a report the organization submitted recently to the BLM.

The BLM manages 38,500 wild horses and burros on federal rangelands in 10 Western states. The agency removes animals from their ranges when herd sizes grow too large for range resources to accommodate. Gathers usually take place between July and September, and some wild horse advocates have argued that BLM gather procedures put animals at risk for injury or death.

In its report, HSUS recommended the BLM avoid conducting helicopter drive gathers when temperatures are above 90⁰F or below 32⁰F. To improve transparency, the organization recommended the BLM install real-time cameras on contractor helicopters, traps, corrals, and holding facilities. The cameras would allow agency personnel to observe and direct gather operations from a safe location, and provide live-streaming gather coverage for public view via the Internet. Footage could later be used to conduct post-gather evaluations of roundup operations, the HSUS report said.

To reduce the need for gathers, the report recommended that the BLM expand its use of the fertility control agent porcine zona pellucida (PZP) to manage herd population growth by inoculating 65-85% of the total mares in a herd.

The HSUS also offered to provide the BLM with a panel that would observe gathers and recommend ways to improve gather procedures.

In a written statement the BLM said the agency has already expanded its PZP inoculation program and the agency will review all recommendations presented in the report.

"The Bureau of Land Management welcomes the involvement and concern of the Humane Society of the United States regarding the BLM's management of wild horses and burros, especially HSUS' offer to make available a panel of equine experts to view capture operations and provide recommendations for the development of performance-based standard operating procedures," the statement said. "Working together with HSUS and other partners, the BLM will put into place what BLM Director Bob Abbey has called a 'new normal' for doing business--one that provides greater transparency to the public and places a greater emphasis on population-suppression techniques."

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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