Public demands protection for wild horses in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado

January 11, 2016

Durango, CO (January 11, 2016) . . . On Friday, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign submitted official public comments to the Mesa Verde National Park urging protection of the historic population of wild horses there. AWHPC submitted letters from 8,982 citizens urging the Park to explore ways to protect and humanely manage this herd with its comments.

“The horses of Mesa Verde National Park are part of the area's natural landscape and history. They have been present on those lands since before the park was created in 1906,” said Deniz Bolbol, AWHPC Programs Director, who submitted comments on behalf of the organization. “We urge the Mesa Verde National Park to create a humane management plan for the horses that will preserve this unique and historic herd and protect their free-roaming behaviors, while managing their numbers through the use of humane, safe, and reversible fertility control.”

“The National Park Service (NPS) has a dual mission to preserve unique resources and to provide for their enjoyment by the public,” she continued. “The horses are an important part of the visitor experience, as evidenced by the countless videos and photographs of these beautiful animals that are regularly shared online by park visitors.” 

Joining AWHPC in urging protection of the Mesa Verde horses are thousands of Coloradans, including Durango resident Kate Feldman, a psychotherapist and horsewoman who states, “The Mesa Verde horses are an important natural and historic resource in our area. I and many other local citizens value this beautiful wild horse population and urge the National Park Service to protect these horses, not eradicate them.”

Also weighing in on this subject is the Dolores-based National Mustang Association, Colorado chapter (NMA/CO), which submitted scoping comments that focus on the need for humane treatment of any horses that may be removed from the park. NMA/CO also once again offered to partner with the park in implementing  a fertility control program using the PZP vaccine, as it has done with the Bureau of Land Management for wild horses in the Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area.

Mesa Verde park officials claim that the horses are damaging archeological resources and present a public safety threat, but former, long-time park employees, including  former park archeologist, Joel M. Brisbin of Dolores and retired supervisory resources manager , as well as life-long Mancos resident Marilyn Colyer vehemently counter that claim and  firmly maintain that these horses have peacefully resided on the Mesa Verde lands for well over a century, that they do not pose a threat to public safety or the park’s archeological resources, and that they are an important part of the visitor experience. Both Mr. Brisbin and Ms. Collyer have called on the park to humanely manage the horses in the park to preserve them for the public to enjoy.

The Mesa Verde horses have been the focus of controversy since the summer of 2014, when six horses in the park died of dehydration. At the time, AWHPC joined NMA/CO and other humane and horse advocacy organizations in calling on the NPS to address concerns about horses’ access to water within the park. At that time, NMA/CO offered to work with the park to relocate some of the horses and develop a management plan, but no progress has been made since then.

AWHPC urges the NPS to manage this wild horse population with humane fertility control and further states that if any removals take place, steps must be taken to ensure that the horses are placed in quality adoptive homes and not sold for slaughter.

The NPS has used the PZP fertility control successfully in other areas, helping to pioneer the practice at the Assateague and Cape Lookout National Seashores. In addition, the BLM has launched contraception programs in three wild horse management areas, including the Spring Creek Basin in conjunction with NMA/CO.

The vaccine prevents pregnancy in mares and causes no side effects to horses. It doesn’t pass to other animals or into the surrounding environment. PZP also does not cause permanent sterility, which allows greater flexibility in managing both the size and genetic health of the herd.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign is a national organization dedicated to preserving America’s iconic wild horses and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. AWHPC’s mission and grassroots advocacy efforts are endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations.

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