Wild Horses...Wilder Controversy

| 1/18/2018 9:28:00 AM

Country Moon 

Horses. There is a fascination with them that captivates us, more so than with many other animals. When you add in the wild horse factor, then there is even more of an air of mystique. Sometimes it is unfathomable to even imagine that masses of these wild horses still exist in the Western United States, given the widespread population and industrial expansion of today. But they do.

Wild horses are descendants of the horses brought by the Spanish conquistadors of the 16th century. They are generally referred to as mustangs, stemming from the Spanish word mustengo meaning “ownerless beast.” Because they are descendants of escaped domestic horses, wildlife management considers them feral (meaning escaped and becoming wild) instead of wild. However, wild horses are still wild in the sense that they live on their own in the wild and are untamed.

They can be found in California, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, Arizona and Texas although Nevada lays claim to home for more than half of them. The fact that they still run free after so many years is a hopeful sign in this complicated world of rules and constrictions. However, freedom never comes without a price as is indicated by the fact that it is estimated that there are more than 70,000 living on Western rangelands that can only support 27,000.  

This overpopulation is partially due to how they live and that they have no natural predators. They scavenge the more than 34 million acres of public land that they run on, eating grass and brush. On a typical day, each mustang will eat 5 to 6 pounds of food when it is available. They run in large herds, which usually consist of one stallion, eight females and the young. The herd is led by one mare and a stallion that is over 6 years old. When faced with danger, the mare leads the herd to safety while the stallion stays and fights. They can double the size of the herd every four years without intervention and have a lifespan of about 40 years.

Overpopulation is a huge concern. The Bureau of Land Management has the undaunting job of managing the United States mustang population and the bureau has a mandate to keep the number at 23,622. This is easier said than done since there are different views on this problem. With the numbers growing, the rangeland could be stripped bare if the problem isn’t kept in check. On the other hand, the Humane Society estimates that 100 years ago the wild horse population was at two million and now there are fewer than 25,000. The numbers clearly don’t match and neither do the solutions.

1/24/2018 10:42:52 AM

Why is it that people who claim to be animals rights activists (ARA) always seem to ignore any animal that humans haven't regularly call a pet or we can't normally find on Old MacDonald's Farm? Wild horses are causing irreversible damage to the desert environments they are in, yet so many are all "protect the horses" and don't seem to have a farthing to give about all the other native animals in those desert environments that are being damaged by the impact of wild horses. Land doesn't just bounce back from over-grazing. Plants that have lost too much of their mass from being consumed will die. Their roots die and the soil their roots are holding on to will be allowed to erode with the next rain fall. Remember the Dust Bowl back in the 1930's? Same principle. The irresponsible overuse of the land lead to an ecological disaster that could have been avoided with proper management. We can go from wild horses to feral cats. ARA are hot for the trap-neuter-release programs because cats are cute and furry and adorable and all over the internet, even though TNR has been proven to not work. ( https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2017/03/08/tnr-is-dangerous-both-to-cats-and-to-other-animals/ ) Yet they don't spare a thought for the thousands of songbirds and insects and spiders and small reptiles/amphibians that those feral cats kill on a yearly basis. ( https://www.wildlifecenter.org/news_events/news/new-study-reveals-extensive-damage-wildlife-caused-domestic-cats ) and ( https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms2380 ) In fact, cats have driven 33 species into extinction. ( http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-21236690 ) Admittedly they will really need to up their game to catch up to the record held by us humans but they have a good start. A balanced ecosystem is a healthy ecosystem. One that is strained will eventually collapse to the detriment of all species living there. The whole point of conservation is for humans to maintain a balance in nature, especially as we have kill off the other predators wherever we go that used to do that same job. It is wrong to favor one species to the detriment and extinction of ten or a thousand other species. We've been favoring ourselves over everything else and look at the shape the planet is in right now. If you are going to be for animal rights, then it should be ALL the animals, not just the ones that are pretty and can be taught to do tricks. And this comment in the article "The numbers clearly don’t match and neither do the solutions." 100 years ago, there were 103 million people in the USA. Today, there are 325 million. You really can't say "Well, 100 years ago the population was just fine" as 100 years ago there were still large predators where those horses are and far, far fewer people trying to use the same habitat. Las Vegas was founded in 1905 and I am pretty sure it is a bit larger now than it was 100 years ago.

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