Details of BLM wild horse proposals revealed

June 16, 2009


The life of wild mustang Cloud has been documented since his birth. His herd, from the Pryor Mountains in Montana, is under threat of being rounded up and "removed".

Documents obtained from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) by a horse welfare group outline discussions and plans over ways to reduce mustang numbers.

The material was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by The Conquistador Program.

The documents reveal what it calls shocking and detailed plans to destroy healthy wild horses in government holding facilities as well as those still remaining in the wild on public lands.

BLM employees as well as a US Department of Agriculture veterinarian held weekly "Implementation Team" meetings beginning in July of 2008 in which they discussed and developed strategies aimed at reducing mustang numbers.

In October they completed a 68-page document entitled "Alternative Management Options".

The BLM team created scenarios for killing mustangs using barbiturates, gunshots, or captive bolts. Bodies would be disposed of through rendering, burial or incineration. They discussed killing 1200-2000 wild horses per year.

The document states that "the general public would be prohibited from viewing euthanasia". Additionally, it was felt that "increased support from public relations and management staff would also be needed to insulate those doing the actual work from the public, media and Congressional scrutiny/criticism".

Ginger Kathrens, filmmaker and volunteer executive director of The Cloud Foundation, dedicated to preserving wild horses on public lands, said: "Despite a huge outcry from the American public last year regarding BLM plans to kill wild horses in holding, the agency is still pressing forward with a plan to destroy our American mustangs both on and off the range."

However, division chief of the Wild Horse and Burro Program, Don Glenn, told The Cloud Foundation that "no decision has been made to move forward on a large scale with this plan, yet".

BLM meeting minutes include the following observations:

Meeting minutes reveal the psychological toll that employees would pay - "have counselling for employees and contractors that have to euthanise the healthy horses because it is very stressful."

The report created an option in which wild horses of all ages could be sold "without limitation". The team admitted that "some wild horses will go to slaughter".

Karen Sussman, president of the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros, said: "Once they are gone, they're gone. To lose this incomparable species would be a travesty."

Conversations in the minutes included how many wild horses could be rendered at the Reno Rendering plant or "disposed of in pits". The team concluded that "there will not be large numbers of horses euthanised during gathers or in the field. This is due to state environmental laws."

Recommendations include the creation of gelding herds, and sterilisation of mares to create non-reproductive herds in the wild in place of natural herds.

The team recommended changing the sex ratio from the normal 50% males and 50% females to 70% males and 30% females. Then the experimental two-year infertility drug, PZP-22, would be given to all mares that are returned to the wild. Plans call for rounding up the wild horses every two years to re-administer the drug.

"Mares on the drug will cycle monthly and, with the altered sex ratio, the social chaos will be dangerous and on-going," Kathrens explains. "Any semblance of normal wild horse society will be completely destroyed."

Kathrens has spent 15 years in the wild documenting mustang behavior for her PBS television documentaries which chronicle the life story of Cloud, the now famous pale palomino stallion she has filmed since birth.

"Even Cloud and his little herd in Montana are in serious danger if BLM implements these options," she continues. "The BLM plans a massive round up in Cloud's herd beginning August 30, 2009."

The BLM will not guarantee that Cloud and his family will remain free.