(Tonopah, NV) Wild Horse Education (WHE) was part of a cooperative team in the field last week as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) begins a long term fertility control project in the Reveille Herd Management Area (HMA) in the Tonopah Field Office.
In November of 2014 BLM conducted a removal operation that included the release of 45 wild horses back into the Herd Management Area (HMA), with 25 mares treated with a form of fertility control called PZP-22, a “two year” formula that at present requires capture for application. The area has a current management level of 138 animals. According to a legal ruling BLM must gather to a target that allows three years of growth. At that time the agency would implement another removal.
A team went out into the field last week to review a plan to utilize ongoing fertility control to minimize the necessity for removals. Laura Leigh (WHE) spent several days in the field with the team reviewing the protocol necessary to successfully treat the population.
Currently the BLM has nearly 60,000 formerly wild horses held in government funded facilities. The cost of holding a wild horse over it’s lifetime has been estimated at nearly $50,000. and strains budgets for on range activities.
“Utilizing a temporary fertility control, that can be given without capture, is simply common sense, humane and fiscally responsible.” said Laura Leigh (WHE), “To be successful in vaccination a greater understanding of the herd must be achieved through the active and ongoing collection of data. Over time this herd will have an underlying record to ensure preservation of the herd and the resources they need to survive.”
In 2013 the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report of the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program. The report called for stronger data collection and the use of fertility control.
Leigh is certified by the Science and Conservation Center (SCC) that has been successfully treating multiple species worldwide for nearly three decades. In addition to sharing information about the vaccine and equipment, discussion focused on the challenges specific to the area.
“The challenge here is not ‘does this vaccine work,’ we know it does and is completely safe,” said Leigh “The challenge is creating a plan that deals with the specific habits of the population of this herd where the wild horses are not acclimated to people. We have a clear understanding of the obstacles and are ready to take Reveille into an era of reality based on science. It is more than exciting.”
Many skeptics believe that fertility control will not work in large HMAs and are pushing for permanent sterilization through surgical procedures. BLM recently granted $11 million to study techniques that include surgical procedures in the field including hysterectomies.
“If I can find and shoot these horses with a camera, with a bit of creativity and common sense we can dart these horses.” said Leigh, “For a minimal investment BLM can use the temporary vaccine and collect data. Any ‘acceptable’ procedure coming from those studies is at least 3 years from any implementation while problems compound. For half that investment we could proceed with the noninvasive darting broad scale and get ahead of this crisis. The data gives any management decisions more credibility. Plans like these deserve a real chance before they are discarded. I hope the commitment is real.”
Wild Horse Education (WHE) has been advocating on the range management based on long term data collection and fertility control for several years. WHE has also advocated for transparent and humane treatment during capture and after removal.
Several areas in the US like Assateague, McCullough Peaks and Sand Wash Basin use the temporary vaccine. The populations in those areas have been well acclimated to the presence of people. The challenge is to take these methods into large, open territory where wild horses are “wild” in the environment.
Our newsletter includes a personal journal entry from Leigh from 11/11/2015. To read it go here: http://wildhorseeducation.cmail20.com/t/ViewEmail/t/F1694F9FFCBD34F9
As a notation we had been advising BLM that data collection was primary and that darting needed to begin in September. The tour in November gave us the ability to demonstrate why.
Categories: Wild Horse Education