Latest: The BLM to study surgical sterilization of wild horses

As ever, changes to the agency’s wild horse policy have sparked controversy.

  • A wild horse foal amid the herd in the Cedar Mountains of Utah.

    Hannah Cowan/BLM

Wild horses have been federally protected since 1971, and with about  67,000 roaming public land – far more than the land can support –– they’ve become one of the West’s most expensive and polarizing natural resource problems. The Bureau of Land Management uses about 7 percent of its budget to manage them, and over 45,000 are held permanently in corrals. Ranchers, environmentalists and horse lovers agree the population must be controlled, but the BLM’s methods remain controversial (“Is there a way through the West’s bitter horse wars?HCN, 11/9/12). 

In late June, the BLM announced plans to study surgical sterilization to see if it’s more effective than contraceptive vaccines. One of the first projects involves removing the ovaries of over 100 wild mares in Oregon. At a recent congressional hearing, however, that proposal prompted a shouting match, with horse advocates angrily insisting that the animals be allowed to roam freely without human interference.

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