Overpopulation on the range? That’s fake news, says leading wild horse advocate

Rangelands in Arizona.
Rangelands in Arizona. © BLM

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.

No evidence of overpopulation of wild horses on western rangelands has been found, advocates say.
No evidence of overpopulation of wild horses on western rangelands has been found, advocates say. © BLM

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.



Latest research and information from the horse world.

6 thoughts on “Overpopulation on the range? That’s fake news, says leading wild horse advocate

  • June 23, 2017 at 10:56 am

    The leading advocate groups in wild horse advocacy realize that on the range management is the solution–the collaboration of these long-time established and respected groups has resulted in the new national volunteer program that has proven successful in many wild horse herds. This is the real future for our wild horses: https://www.whbvresourcecenter.org/

  • June 23, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    Weather you wish it or not, Protect Mustangs IS one of the “leading” Advocate Groups today.
    It is NOT correct to discount the efforts, hard work and success of this group, simply because they are not for PZP, encourage Reserve Design and are Anti-slaughter.

  • June 23, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    Open Letter to Appropriations Committee
    Posted on Straight from the Horse’s Heart /June 17, 2017

    “Do not allow the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), United States Forest Service (USFS), Farm Bureau and the extraction and mining giants and the domestic livestock grazing associations to pull the wool over your eyes. There are no excess wild horses and burros on their legally designated land. Per the unanimously passed United States 1971 Congressional Wild Horse and Burro Act, the land is to be devoted principally although not exclusively to the wild horses and wild burros’ welfare in keeping with the multiple-use management concept of public lands.

    The recent National Academy of Sciences study found NO evidence of overpopulation of Wild Horses and Wild Burros. Obviously, the government’s actions toward the wild horses and burros needs to be closely and independently investigated and the animals left on their legally designated land and those already captured must be returned to their legal lands. The American people and members of Congress are being lied to by our government agencies that are mandated by Congressional Law to protect these animals. Our government agencies (BLM and USFS) are truly managing our wild horses and wild burros toward extinction.

    There is no reason for these wild horse and burro removals and destruction procedures because there is no “over-population” of wild horses and burros on their legally designated land. In 1971, when Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, these animals were found roaming across 53,800,000 million acres. That amount of acreage could support more than about 250,000 wild horses and burros but even after 22,200,000 acres were robbed from the American people and the wild horses and burros by government agencies the remaining 31,600,000 acres could easily support more than 100,000 wild horses and burros today. It is currently independently estimated that only about 20,000 – 30,000 wild horses and burros are living on their legal land today and yet the government continues its aggressive removal and destructive management toward total wild horse and burro extermination.

    There is a legal term for how the BLM operates. It is “Regulatory Capture”. Regulatory capture is a form of political corruption that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest instead advances the special interest groups’ desires that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. Regulatory capture is a form of government failure and it creates an opening for behavior in ways injurious to the public and in this case injurious to the wild horses and burros that belong to American citizens.

    In addition, the BLM is in clear violation of Title 18; falsifying legal documents. A few of many examples include, but are certainly not limited to, but prove this violation by the BLM’s statements of annual population increases such as the Buckhorn herd area 237% (71 total horses giving birth to 168 foals) in one year and the Black Rock herd area 418% (88 horses giving birth to 368 foals) in one year. Wild horses and burros have an eleven-month gestation period and give birth to only one foal. The above BLM annual population increase statements are biologically and mathematically impossible but this is the type of non-credible data being stated by the BLM and provided to you. Another example of BLM’s mathematics is their statement that the Black Mt. herd area wild burro population before capture/removal was 175 animals and after they captured and removed 80 animals, the remaining population was 635! Since when does 175, minus 80, equal 635? There are many, many other examples of the false and highly deceitful data that BLM provides to the public and to Congress.


    Since Congress is concerned with the cost of long-term holding of wild horses and burros, and our public lands, please allow me to remind you that these wild horses and burros already have legal lands in the wild for them to live on which cost the tax-payer nothing. In contrast, private/corporate livestock grazing on public lands has cost the taxpayers $1 Billion over past decade. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported the federal government spends at least $144 million each year managing private livestock grazing on federal public lands, but collects only $21 million in grazing fees—for a net LOSS of at least $123 million per year.



    As an environmental researcher, United States citizen and taxpayer concerned with the fate of the North-American wild horses and wild burros, I urge you to not be taken in by the biased testimony you recently heard from anti-wild horse/burro Utah Representative Chris Stewart.

    The testimony of Secretary of Interior Zinke was clearly a deliberate attempt to con and to deceive in order to further the extremely unfair and dishonest victimization of our nations overly reduced, overly restricted, American wild horses and burros. The testimony was not at all scientifically supportable and therefore not at all credible and must be stricken from public record and true, scientifically supportable testimony must be given to Congress.

    These wild animals are being illegally deprived of their legal habitats and resources within their lawfully declared areas on the public lands; both BLM and US Forest Service. This is being done to gratify and indulge the contemptible and domineering demands of many public lands ranchers, including both cattle and sheep, as well as to other wild-horse/burro-enemies, such as certain big game hunters, land developers, giant mining and energy extraction corporations, and others who have been taken in by all the disinformation provided to them by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service.

    What we have now is a very illegal and corrupt wild horse and wild burro program managed by the BLM and USFS that dishonors the wild horse and wild burro heritage and natural place in America. This is contemptuous of the true and core intent of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and of Congress itself, which unanimously passed this law of the United States. For decades, wild horses and burros have been protected by a ban on the slaughter of healthy animals or any sale that “results in their destruction for processing into commercial products.” The current 2018 budget proposal would allow “euthanasia and unrestricted sale of certain excess animals.” If this does pass, it will cause thousands of innocent wild horses and burros that belong on their Congressionally designated lands to be slaughtered. These wild horses and wild burros belong to me and to all American citizens and by Congressional law MUST be protected.”

  • June 24, 2017 at 5:02 am

    Reserve Design, not messing with the intrinsic physiology and ecology of the wild horses and burros, is the right way to assure their long term well being and future! See my reserve design proposal. Reserve Design, by the way, is a branch of Conservation Biology. http://www.gofundme.com/mstngreservedesign Also see my book and website The Wild Horse Conspiracy for a well rounded and wild horse/burro respecting account of what has been, is, and needs to happen.

  • July 5, 2017 at 12:38 am

    They should be held accountable for their dishonesty and greed. Because of this we may lose the horses and thats not fair.


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