Wild horses are slaughtered after breeding too fast: Mustangs roaming the plains of America endanger animals
Tens of thousands of wild horses are being slaughtered en masse after mustangs breed too quickly on the great plains
- Iconic horse of the American west threatens natural ecosystems
- About 37,000 mustangs roam the U.S. ranges in ten states
- Another 50,000 in temporary pastures
- Officials say the population has reached “critical mass.”
They are an icon of the American West and a symbol of the country’s frontier history, but now hundreds of mustang horses are being slaughtered due to overcrowding.
Under existing laws, the government pays farmers to take in thousands of these “feral” horses each year to keep population numbers low. Mustangs are not a native species to the Americas and are known to have a negative effect on natural ecosystems.
The current system to control these threats has been in place since 1971, but now that rising feed costs have led a growing number of U.S. ranchers to refuse to keep mustangs.
Mustangs are considered a symbol of the frontier history of the American West
The government uses helicopters to trap mustangs and lean populations
Campaigners say helicopter herding is cruel and makes no distinction between the fit horses and the old and young population
Pregnant mares and young foals are sometimes chased for miles over rough terrain, according to activists
Officials have warned that the government’s own pastures and short-term corrals are exceeding capacity.
The result could mean that thousands of this cherished race will be slaughtered to contain overpopulation.
An estimated 37,000 wild horses and wild donkeys roam the territories in ten western states of the US.
Officials say this is 11,000 more than the manageable population, and the numbers are expected to double every four years.
About 50,000 wild horses and donkeys are currently kept in temporary pastures, three times as many as a decade ago.
Despite the crisis in overpopulation and the known effects of wild snakes on the natural habitats of other native animals, activists continue to battle with the government over the management of mustangs in particular.
To thin out the populations of feral herds, helicopters are used to trap mustangs. Some campaigners believe this is cruel and harmful to a species they believe should be protected by America.
Suzanne Roy of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign said pregnant mares and foals are chased by helicopters over miles of rugged terrain.
“Helicopters are not distinctive,” she said. “They storm the very oldest and the very youngest with the fitness.”
Authorities have been accused of pushing mustangs to extinction. However, only 99 of the 11,000 gathered on the plains last year died. That’s less than 1%.
Officials are now beginning to see that slaughter may be the only solution to contain the population.
Government legislation has been criticized for favoring farmers who prefer to clear land of feral horses to make way for livestock
Officials estimate that just under 50,000 feral horses are kept in temporary pastures
There remains a controversy over whether the mustang can be considered a native animal to North America
Ms. Roy denies this and she questions the wisdom surrounding the belief that the American country cannot support mustang populations.
She claims the legislation weighs heavily in favor of farmers who need the land cleared for livestock.
The problem could be better addressed through contraceptive measures using fertility drugs.
Tom Gorey, of the Bureau of Land Management, denied that this would provide an adequate alternative.
He said, ‘Logistically, [contraception] is very loud. It has not been shown to be a magical solution.’
The US Congress has recognized the mustang as “a living symbol of the historic pioneering spirit of the West.”
The first Mustangs descended from Iberian horses that were brought from Spain to Mexico and Florida during the settlement of North America.
Most of these horses were of Andalusian, Arabian and Barb descent and were domesticated animals that were tamed for human use.
This has led to disagreement over whether it is entirely accurate to call the mustang ‘wild’ as it is the descendant of a domesticated breed that is not native to its natural habitat.
Native Americans soon adopted the horse as a primary means of transportation. They were also used in battles, trade and hunting, particularly on bison.
Some environmentalists argue that the mustang should be classed as indigenous because there is evidence that horses roamed North America in prehistoric times.
More than half of all North American Mustangs are found in Nevada, with other significant populations in Montana, Wyoming, and Oregon.
The government says the total manageable population in the wild should be 26,000, a figure significantly lower than reality.
“We are reaching critical mass,” added Tom Gorey. “And we don’t see a ready-made solution.”