BLM Researching Wild Mare Spayings

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Pat Raia, The Horse, May 4, 2013

images-1The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is studying the spaying of fertile wild mares in order to control the growth of the wild horse population. But the agency’s senior wild horse and burro program adviser said that use of the procedure is not imminent.

According to BLM estimates, there are approximately 37,300 wild horses and burros roaming BLM-managed rangelands in 10 western states. The agency estimates that another 50,000 animals currently reside in holding facilities. The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act protects wild horses and burros and places them under BLM jurisdiction.

BLM spokesman Tom Gorey said that the wild horse population can double every four years. To control wild horse herd sizes, the agency removes animals from their ranges to short-term corrals and long-term pastures. Some wild horse advocates oppose these gathers as a population control method. Also to control herd population, the agency has treated some mares with the fertility-control drug porcine zona pellucida (PZP) and released more stallions than mares back onto the ranges after gathers.

Dean Bolstad, senior advisor for the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program, said that in 2012, the agency’s Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board suggested removing the ovaries of some wild mares as a way to control herd growth. The procedure, known as an ovariectomy, is sometimes used to eliminate mares’ fertility cycles, treat disease, or control estrus-related behavior. The BLM is deliberating exercising ovariectomies as part of its overall herd population growth plan, Bolstad said.

“We are considering the Advisory Board’s recommendation and consulting with fertility experts and with veterinarians,” Bolsted said. “But we have not started spaying mares.”

Bolsted said that the BLM’s decision to use the spay procedure and how it will be applied will be contingent on the opinions of veterinarians and other specialists, and on the experiences of those who have used the procedure in both wild and domestic mares.

Wildlife fertility specialist Jay F. Kirkpatrick PhD, director of the Science and Conservation Center in Montana, said that issue of the wild horse fertility is complex. Kirkpatrick said that the form of PZP used by the BLM has not “delivered on its expectations.”

Meanwhile, Kirkpatrick said that ovariectony is generally safe and effective.

“If done carefully and professionally, modern ovariectomy is fairly safe and reasonably stress free (beyond capture),” Kirkpatrick said. “The real issue is which mares will suffer the loss.”

Kirkpatrick said if the BLM applies the spaying option, it is critical that the agency know which mares have undergone the procedure and which have not. He explained that if a mare has made a genetic contribution to the herd, rendering her unable to produce any more foals via an ovariectomy “isn’t bad. But if she has not made that genetic contribution to the herd, then it is bad.”

Beyond that, the use of ovariectomy could also influence the social structure of wild horse bands, Kirkpatrick said: “Ovariectomy will, of course, eliminate estrus behavior and that may or may not have an impact on social structure, depending upon whether or not (the BLM) allows some mares to remain intact in each band.”

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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
10 Comments
  • Kirkpatrick is not a veterinarian and his opinion is not researched. From all the information by unbiased opinions and experienced vets the procedure is safe only when done under sterile conditions and is rarely done because it requires recovery care and time. I don’t think this is the way the BLM would do it. Besides there is NO EXCESS of wild horses. There are NOT 37,000 still free. That is a lie being told now for years. 70% of the herds are not genetically viable and sustainable already This would just be more”managing for extinction” by the BLM.

    May 4, 2013
  • Bolstad said “we will proceed carefully, etc.”Since when has the BLM ever done that!
    There in no need to control the populatiion since there is no excess.

    May 4, 2013
  • nancy

    The BLM needs to “research reducing the herds of sheep and cattle that are over-running the rangeland and then there would be no problem of “excess” horses–not that there ever was–it’s all the BLM cattle ranchers running the show, including the so-called “Advisory Board??” What a joke!

    May 4, 2013
  • peggy peterson

    The BLM is not to be trusted and they have earned that title.

    May 4, 2013
  • Marcia

    It seems to me that the BLM is most careful when it’s stalling.

    May 4, 2013
  • Fay

    What kind of idiot would even consider doing this to a wild mare? Key word here WILD!! This procedure is dangerous enough on a domestic mare, even when done under strictly controlled cconditions. But to do this to a mare previously not handled, untouched by human hands, is inhumane! It would be far too stressful and frightening for the mare. How many times would she have to be sedated to do this and to do the follow up? This is simply cruel. Get the cattle and sheep off the BLM land and give it back to the wild ones and let God take care of birth control!

    May 4, 2013
  • Susan Durrenberger

    I read recently that 30 mares who suffered a spay surgery died. The BLM is lying again, as usual. To spay a mare is risky. Try gelding some of the stallions. Why not just put the horses back where they belong – on their home ranges or does this make too much sense? Stop torturing these horses and leave them alone. The whole world is laughing at this bungling attempt to appease cattle people. BLM doesn’t know what it is doing.

    May 4, 2013
  • Louie C

    Excerpts:
    http://prophoto7journal.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/bureau-of-land-management-arrogance-and-abuse/
    Bureau of Land Management, Arrogance, and Abuse
    Ethics and the BLM = None
    Not so ironic the very existence of ethics remains ignored. It’s as if a paradigm exists, simply stated, that being a government employee qualifies BLM employees the ability to ignore laws and ethics — and those same laws and ethics are only for the common folks. Yes, the common folks, you and I, who pay our taxes, who abide by those laws and ethical parameters as written, and who receive severe consequences if not.
    So the BLM, who out of a total arrogant attitude, attempts to consistently justify their ignoring of our nations laws and ethics, abound in illegal, unethical, and questionable behavior; Which includes animal abuse, specifically of our nation’s Wild Horse Herds, or even sending our Wild Horses to slaughter.
    This happens even though we, as tax payers, continue to pay for the upkeep and feeding of these horses from many unnecessary roundups, and then discover this is not true either. We find out it is also a lie given to the public by BLM employees
    Ethics and the BLM = None
    Not so ironic the very existence of ethics remains ignored. It’s as if a paradigm exists, simply stated, that being a government employee qualifies BLM employees the ability to ignore laws and ethics — and those same laws and ethics are only for the common folks. Yes, the common folks, you and I, who pay our taxes, who abide by those laws and ethical parameters as written, and who receive severe consequences if not.

    May 4, 2013
  • Kathy

    The things this ‘organization'( and I am not going to call it a government agency since they are more like a mob) does to OUR wild horses. There is no excess of horses, only greed within the DOI

    May 4, 2013
  • Mustang man

    Amazing how the BLM leaves out the before and after parts of Fitzpatrick’s statements which completely alters what they are trying to portray him saying. Remember folks, the BLM LIES only when one of their mouths are moving.

    May 9, 2013