By Rosalie Rayburn, ABQ Journal
A nonprofit organization that advocates for the protection and preservation of free-roaming horses in Placitas has asked the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for assistance in addressing public safety concerns arising from the animals straying on the roads.
Wild Horse Observers Association president Patience O’Dowd recently emailed BLM officials and the U.S. Secretary of the Interior offering to assist with administering a contraceptive to curb the growth of the horse population, and to remove and relocate “the horses at risk of high speed impact” on the roads.
“We have knowledge of the specific horses that are causing a risk to public safety, and we have the ability to assist in every stage, including gathering the horses and finding them temporary homes, adoption homes, or training,” O’Dowd said in a May 3 letter to Tom Gow, the BLM’s Rio Puerco Field Office Manager.
Last month, a vehicle collision killed a horse on N.M. 165 in Placitas, prompting Sandoval County Commissioner Orlando Lucero to call for some kind of action to forestall further horse, or potentially, human fatalities. Some residents have estimated the free-roaming horse population numbers 100.
“Everybody shares the concern about the danger with vehicles,” said BLM spokeswoman Donna Hummel.
She said agency officials are committed to community efforts to resolve the concerns but the BLM does not have jurisdiction over the horses. She said the BLM has used contraceptives on horse herds it manages but that approach would not address the immediate problem. She said BLM officials will contact the state Livestock Board, the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association and local tribes to see if they can help offer solutions.
O’Dowd declined to comment about WHOA’s plans to remove horses but said the organization has been trying for more than two years to get permission to use the immuno-contraceptive PZP (porcine zona pellucida) to limit the horse population.
The organization has contacted the Livestock Board, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and the governor’s offices in its efforts.
Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick, director of the nonprofit Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Mont., which produces PZP, said WHOA members have been certified to use the product, which received Environmental Protection Agency approval last year.
The contraceptive was also recently registered for use in New Mexico, according to state Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Katie Goetz.
EPA designated it a pesticide, she said, requiring purchasers and users to have a dealer’s license, which must be renewed annually. Obtaining a license involves an application and fee, Goetz said in an email. O’Dowd recently contacted state Veterinarian Dave Fly at the Livestock Board again asking what WHOA would need to do to receive PZP and use it.
Fly responded on May 2 in an email saying WHOA would need approval from the Agriculture Department but added “a written agreement with the legal owners of any animals that are to be treated must be in place,” in order to use PZP.
Goetz reiterated this in an email to the Journal saying, “No pesticide should be applied without the consent of the owner.”
The question of who owns the Placitas free-roaming horses remains unanswered.
Though some Placitas residents provide the horses with food and water, no one claims them.
The BLM says the horses don’t qualify as “wild” under a 1971 federal law that requires the agency to manage them.
San Felipe Pueblo leaders have denied assertions that the horses belong to the tribe.
The State Game and Fish Department is responsible for wildlife like deer and elk, but not the Placitas horses.
“We would probably consider them the same as feral pigs,” Department spokesman Dan Williams said.
The state Livestock Board did not return calls for comment.