Stallion Castration Dropped from Contested BLM Gather Plan

Stallion Castration Dropped from Contested BLM Gather Plan

Mustang mares gathered from the White Mountain/Little Colorado ranges in Wyoming will receive a contraceptive and gathered stallions will return to the range intact under the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) revised plan for the contested gather.

Photo: Bureau of Land Management

Mustang mares gathered from the White Mountain/Little Colorado ranges in Wyoming will receive a contraceptive and gathered stallions will return to the range intact under the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) revised plan for the contested gather. The new plan is the third put forward by the agency for this gather.

In June, some wild horse advocates criticized the BLM when the agency announced that it would gather animals from the White Mountain and Little Colorado Herd Management Areas in Wyoming, and spay mares and castrate stallions to reach designated appropriate management levels (205-300 for the former and 69-100 for the latter). Sterile herds would reside on both ranges, said BLM spokeswoman Cindy Wertz.

The BLM later revised its plan to exclude the spaying of mares. Under a revised plan, the BLM would gather approximately 873 animals from the ranges return only 117 geldings to the ranges.

On July 25 the Western Watersheds Project and the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), along with Donna and Greg Duckworth and Carol Walker, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia asking the court to prevent the BLM from returning only geldings to the range. Three days later, a Congressional delegation issued a letter asking Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and BLM Director Bob Abbey to abandon the plan to sterilize any wild horses under BLM jurisdiction.

On Aug. 2 the BLM announced it would revise the plan again, and the new gather decision announced on Aug. 5 excludes the stallion castrations. Serena Baker, BLM spokeswoman, said that under the new plan all mares returned to the range will be treated with the contraceptive porcine zona pellucida. Sex ratios would also be adjusted favoring stallions to mares.

Baker said that because decision records have not yet been signed for two additional gathers slated for this year (the Divide Basin and the Red Desert Complex gathers), she could not say whether castration will figure into those gathers. However, she said stallion castration is a valuable tool to manage wild horse populations.

"BLM Wyoming hopes to use gelding in the future and will develop a monitoring strategy prior to employing this tool," Baker said.

Also, castration is currently a standard procedure the agency uses in preparing wild horses for adoption, Baker said.

Suzanne Roy, campaign director for the AWHPC, called the BLM's decision to abandon the castration plan at the White Mountain/Little Colorado gather a victory for wild horse advocates and environmentalists.

The White Mountain/Little Colorado gather is scheduled to begin within the next 30 days and is expected to last approximately three weeks.

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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