Latest: BLM abandons plan to surgically sterilize wild horses

The agency will focus on increasing adoption of horses and research other methods.


A wild horse corral facility in Hines, Oregon.
Greg Shine/BLM

About 67,000 wild horses and burros roam the West’s public lands. Federally protected since 1971, the animals are both costly and controversial. The Bureau of Land Management spends $76 million per year on their oversight, and around two-thirds of them live in permanent holding pens. Most observers agree the population must be controlled but disagree strongly on how to do so (“Is there a way through the West’s bitter horse wars?HCN, 11/9/12). 

In early November, the BLM abandoned its plan to spay about 100 wild mares in Oregon, after a lawsuit brought a temporary halt to the research. Wild horse advocates prefer a contraceptive vaccine that makes mares infertile for about a year, but the BLM says its widespread use on herds that roam thousands of acres isn’t feasible. Instead, the agency plans to increase adoption incentives to find homes for more horses, and will likely continue searching for a humane, permanent sterilization method.

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