Are wild horses a native species? Question is at heart of debate
If only the Salt Lake Tribune would have sought out biologists not in control of the cattle industry, they could have had a more rational explanation as to what is going on. Robert Bauer’s “A Biologist’s Response….” here on our website goes into the true heart of the matter: The mismanagement of wild horse herds in the West by the BLM.
Whether or not horses and burros lived in the American West continuously is not an issue. Horses biology is developed in such a way – after living for extended periods of time in North America – that they are adapted to the lands of the American West. Cattle are the invasive species not horses and burros.
Jay Kirkpatrick’s (another pro-cattle biologist) states that horses have no economic value any more. This flies in the face of American values which are reflected in the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act which states: “wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people…”. If we only kept alive those things Kirkpatrick considers of economic value, plenty of species – including ourselves – could be placed on the chopping block. ~ HfH
From: The Salt Lake Tribune
By: Kristen Moulton
Setting aside the question of whether there are too many or too few horses — a debate raging throughout the West — the wildlife agency will have to consider a perennial question: Are wild horses native to this country?
To gain endangered or threatened status, a species must be in danger of going extinct and generally, it must be native.
The prevailing wisdom — and the position of the Bureau of Land Management, which manages wild horses — is that wild horses are not native because humans brought them to the continent.
Friends of Animals and The Cloud Foundation argue in a petition filed June 10 that horses are both going extinct and, indeed, a native species.
The two nonprofits contend wild horses on the public range face extinction because of loss of habitat to cattle grazing, mining, energy exploration and urban expansion, as well as the BLM’s controls, which limit the horses to small herds on isolated ranges, require frequent roundups and are headed toward sterilization of horses.
And they point to prominent researchers who, contrary to long-standing assumptions, consider wild horses a native species.
Ross MacPhee, an evolutionary biologist and curator of mammology at the American Museum of Natural History, says it’s “complete absurdity” to consider wild horses as non-native.
Their ancestors evolved on this continent millions of years ago, and some migrated over the Bering Strait land bridge that then connected North America to Asia.