Wild Horse and Burro Program Table Topic (AAEP 2011)

The BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program table topic presented at the 2011 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Annual Meeting, held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio, Texas, opened with a summary by Jacy Cook, DVM, and Beau Whitaker, DVM, of the AAEP BLM Task Force findings. The discussion quickly steered away from AAEP's report and focused on BLM management and population control efforts. Albert J. Kane, DVM, MPVM, PhD, senior staff veterinarian for the Bureau of Land Management's Wild Horse and Burro Program was present and fielded many of the questions concerning BLM practices and population control strategies currently being used as well as those being researched. The porcine zona pellucida immunocontraceptive vaccine (PZP) and spaying mares were both discussed in length as options for decreasing foaling rates. Spaying mares appears to be logistically difficult, and veterinarians would need to perform a large number of spaying procedures to make a significant population difference over time. PZP shows some promise but further research is needed. Attendees brought up the question of releasing geldings as a population control measure. Kane said this would have minimal effect as most of the mares would still be bred by the remaining intact males.

One veterinarian brought up his concern over the BLM's selection in screening potential adopters. The BLM as a government agency cannot show any discrimination in who it allows to adopt. The potential adopter must show that they have a place to keep the animal and the ability to care for it. A follow-up visit is required after adoption to confirm proper care is being given. Kane stressed that the BLM encourages veterinarians to report improper care of adopted wild horses and burros back to the organizatio. Another veterinarian asked if there were Equitarian efforts that he could participate in to benefit the wild horse. The BLM contracts veterinary services to private practice veterinarians. Kane felt Equitarian aid for horses and burros still in BLM care would negatively affect the veterinarians already providing the services.

The current efforts by the Mustang Heritage Foundation and Extreme Mustang Makeover to bring public awareness to the trainability and versatility of the wild horse was also brought up. They have done a great job over the past few years of marketing the wild horse to the general public and sparking interest in adoption of trained and untrained horses. Despite these efforts, wild horse and burro adoptions have decreased by 50% in the last seven years. The correlation between the unwanted horse issue and decreases in wild horse adoptions (thus an increase in horses cared for by the BLM) was made and discussed as part of a bigger issue facing the horse industry and equine veterinarians.

This Table Topic was moderated by Beau D. Whitaker, DVM, of Dr. T's Equine Clinic in Salado, Texas, and Jacy Cook, DVM, a practitioner at All West Veterinary Hospital, in Bozeman, Mont.

About the Author

Beau D. Whitaker, DVM

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