Overpopulation of America’s wild horses on its vast western range has been branded fake news by a leading advocate, who says management strategies first require an accurate head count.
The nonprofit group Protect Mustangs says the new Secretary of Interior, Ryan Zinke, will push forward in the Senate on Thursday to lift the ban on destroying wild horses and allow sales without limitation, a move that could see captured wild horses enter the slaughter pipeline.
“It’s time for the truth to come out before America’s last herds of wild horses are managed to extinction through killing, sterilization, sales by the truckload or pesticides used for birth control,” said the group’s executive director, Anne Novak.
“The bottom line is Americans want their wild horses protected. Count them first, then base management on accurate information, not hype.
“Overpopulation is fake news,” she said.
“Wild horses aren’t pests or a meat source − they are national treasures and icons of freedom. The public is outraged.”
The group asserts that the “overpopulation myth” is being used to fear-monger the Senate into treating wild horses like pests. It pointed to a 2013 report by the National Academy of Sciences that found no evidence of overpopulation.
Protect Mustangs is petitioning for a Congressional investigation and head count of wild horses and burros to find out how many are left and how many have already disappeared.
Christine DeCarlo, PhD, argues that an accurate head count is the only moral and legal way forward.
“Without that data any proposal cannot be justified. A DNA study is warranted but just counting noses at this point would be a huge step in the right direction.”
Wildlife ecologist Craig Downer, Ph.D, said an independent professional census needed to be done of all the wild horses and wild burros who remained on Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service lands in and around their legal herd management areas and territories.
“I recognize that the situation is urgent, because this year I have been out in the field observing a number of the wild horse and wild burro herds, and am finding very few left.”
The group noted that the BLM had continued to spend millions on roundups and off-range holding of horses, despite the National Academy of Sciences report that there was “no evidence of overpopulation”.
Novak’s #NoKill Mustangs petition has garnered more than 223,000 signatures.
Protect Mustangs’ petition to defund the roundups and stop the slaughter has more than 106,000 signatures.