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Terri Farley
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Monday, April 11, 2016

Still Studiously Ignorant of Modern Science: BLM on Wild Horses

Roundup photo by Melissa Farlow for WILD AT HEART: Mustangs and the Young People Fighting to Save Them

Dear Readers,
Research for Wild at Heart took me into the issue of wild horse birth control. It's a rarely needed "solution" to a man-made problem that had to be explored.
Instead of accepting remote darting (like you've seen on wildlife TV specials), BLM and Oregon State University want to experiment with spaying, shown in this video.

In 2012, US District Judge Beryl Howell, ruling on BLM wild horse policy declared that BLM “may not simply remain studiously ignorant of material scientific evidence well known to the agency and brought directly to its attention in timely-filed comments”.  Sadly, she was wrong. 

Here is my letter to BLM, Oregon State University and Wild Horse Advisory Board members.

In a 2013 report, NAS recommended birth control darting for wild horse herds which demonstrated a need for management. The Humane Society of the United States concurred.
“Bureaucracy Interrupted,” HSUS’s analysis of BLM’s budget documents indicated, “…the more money Congress appropriates in response to the Bureau’s plans for reform, the more the program costs (and animals in long-term holding) increase instead of the other way around.”
Despite consensus from all credible agencies that it’s cheaper and more humane to manage wild horses on the range, BLM remains stubbornly opposed to modern management techniques.
Instead, the Bureau offered $10 million to anyone who found a new means of birth control, as they paid independent contractors to chase, trap and corral the West’s remaining wild horses.
Now, Oregon State University and BLM are fired-up to experiment on mustangs with spaying surgery. “Let’s see what happens” is a bad strategy when test subjects are alive and answers are at hand. At least 10% of spayed mares died at the Sheldon Refuge. Many others were released and not tracked. Another example? BLM facilities have a high mortality rate in gelded stallions (a procedure considered safe and routine for domestic horses). But these are wild animals. They are not unconscious and are traumatized. If they don’t go into shock and die, they often succumb to a lack of post-op care. 
This crosses the line from experimentation to molestation. Can you really believe sterilization will be different for wild mares? Can you ethically substitute hope for experience? 
Terri Farley

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