Red Desert, a pzp release

The first steps back home

In conjunction with the massive removal of wild horses from the Red Desert Complex in Wyoming, BLM has done a “treat and release” of wild horses. On Friday BLM released 24 studs. On Saturday BLM released 20 studs and 46 mares treated with PZP.

No wild horses were captured on Saturday. The roundup continues today. You can view reports from the ongoing roundup HERE.

Awaiting release

As an advocate watching wild horses returned is always bittersweet. These wild horses have been run by chopper, families torn apart with most heading to a facility on the treacherous backside of the program, that can lead to the slaughter pipeline.

A minor fraction of the captives return to the range. Ranges where politics and buddy clubs continue rapid exploitation of their homes and fail to protect the basic needs of life. (the picture is not pretty)


Every wild horse that returns to the range is a clear reminder that they still need us all to speak for them.

Each wild one a unique individual. Some show such focus and determination to get as far away from people as they can. Some show a timidness as they depart the trailer to race for the safety of the ones that left before them.

A release can make even a seasoned advocate, that has witnessed this process a hundred times, choke up.

Many of the roundups you have seen this year are what BLM calls “fertility control” operations.

The public has confused PZP with a method of darting. It is not a method, it is a substance. PZP is a temporary fertility control substance. PZP is a non-hormonal vaccine that is currently approved in two forms; an annual vaccine that can be darted and PZP-22 that includes a time release pellet and lasts from 18-24 months. PZP is primarily used as you are seeing with this release: part of a roundup.

BLM sometimes uses GonaCon. GonaCon is a hormonal agent that BLM also uses as part of a roundup. This substance can give 3-4 years of efficacy. GonaCon can also be darted.

(The info above is for informational purposes as a lot of misinformation is floating around internet land. A substance is a substance. A method of implementation is a method. )

Awaiting release after capture, sorting, treatment, loading…

BLM uses a helicopter to get down to, or close to, a predominantly arbitrary stocking level (AML) and then treats and releases a fractional portion of those captured. BLM wont use fertility control unless they get near “AML.” A hand full of areas are darted in between helicopter roundups.  (Most of you know about the agreement between corporate lobby groups called “Ten Years to AML.” They went to the table to get an order of PZP and gave away everything else.) 

Some of the big roundups you have seen recently are considered “fertility control” by the agency; Shawave and Diamond as examples.

Running back home

Fertility control is not management, it is a possible tool of management for a specified herd.

Fertility control is fertility control. Fertility control does not fight abusive handling practices. It does not fix long standing inaccuracies in management. It does not fix the massive flaws in data, forage allocations, stocking levels, protect the range, fix the lack of actual open management plans, etc. It does not stop roundups. Sometime in the future, it could slow roundups by keeping population levels closer to the set “AML.”

The fight for our wild ones has many layers, each layer distinct in law and practice. Mixing up those layers, false claims, ignoring the actual process of other parts of the fight,  hurts the horses.

As a tool of management, fertility control does allow a few wild horses to return to the range; a promise of a free future for some.

Most often that promise is broken by the broken system.

Run by chopper, his family torn from him, he stops to look at the humans before turning and heading off. Will the promise of freedom be broken?

We must begin to create open management planning that preserves and protects the herd and habitat. This plan must begin, as outlined in the handbook and ignored, with open and inclusive dialogue (the scoping period).

We need a plan that limits intrusion of industry, preserves the unique genetic components of each herd, improves water sources and forage taken from them; the type of plan you would create to protect any living species. Open planning would determine the “if it is needed, when, what and how” of any fertility control and ensure that any treatment continues. Management planning will also create fiscal responsibility. Instead of politics ruling what BLM will spend funds on, planning documents create a frame to determine appropriate use of funding that is harder to slide over to satisfy the buddy club.

Management to “protect and preserve” for future generations is multilayered and governed in many steps. With wild horses and burros we skip the most critical steps and instead keep the system running as a gift to exploitative interests.

Heading home to an uncertain future.

We would never have a conversation about protecting sage grouse by starting with keeping the population at the numbers considered threatened and ignoring the fact that habitat destruction by industry needs to stop or be limited.

We do exactly that with wild horses. The BLM asserting the number Congress found “fast disappearing”  in 1971, and passed the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act as a result, is somehow an appropriate management level? Give away the grazing (food) and water to livestock and mining, then blame the horse and say the land can not sustain them?

Wild horses are part of public lands. It is time we actually create management plans. The lack of accountable planning keeps this program easily corrupted and on the verge of fiscal collapse.

You can take action here. 


Help us stay in the fight. 

Our teams are in field and working hard. Our legal team is finalizing our legal action against spaying in Utah and working on more cases against mining, oil and gas. Without you none of our work is possible.

Categories: Roundups