By Tom McGhee, Denver Post
July 26, 2016
Wild horse advocates have asked a court to stop the Bureau of Land Management’s plan to sterilize wild horses, a step the agency says is needed to control explosive growth among herds.
In the suit, Front Range Equine Rescue calls the planned sterilization on wild mares untested and dangerous and a “radical departure from the bounds of science and humane treatment.”
The BLM has no comment on the litigation, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Tom Gorey, BLM spokesman, said Tuesday.
Last month, BLM Deputy Director Steve Ellis told Congress that the estimated 67,000 wild horses and burros on federal land in 10 states is two-and-a-half times more than the range can support, according to The Associated Press.
However, there’s no more room in government corals and leased pastures, where 47,000 horses cost taxpayers about $50,000 per head over the course of their lifetime, Ellis said.
“The BLM has awarded a research grant to Oregon State University to conduct the studies,” according to a BLM fact sheet.
The procedures will follow an animal care protocol approved by the university, and will be conducted at Oregon’s Wild Horse Off-Range Corral in Hines, Ore., sometime this summer.
The agency plans to investigate the safety and effectiveness of three separate methods of surgical sterilization of approximately 225 mares that are currently in long-term holding pens, according to the suit.
Front Range Equine Rescue started in Colorado in 1997 but moved its main offices to Florida last year. It maintains its work in Colorado and also Virginia.
The sterilization methods include removal of both ovaries, which is “untested and dangerous in a setting such as the long-term holding facilities set up for captured wild horses,” the suit said.
Other methods are endoscopic tubal ligation and “untested and unpredictable hysteroscopically-guided laser ablation of oviduct papilla — which will use a laser to scar and then hopefully seal the opening of each oviduct,” the suit said.
The agency has access to, and already uses, a contraceptive vaccine called Pocine Zona Pellucida (PZP). The vaccine is humane and a scientifically proven alternative to sterilization, the suit said.
On its website, the BLM calls PZP the “most promising” of contraceptive vaccines, but adds that its effectiveness is limited to between one and two years. It is also difficult to implement amonglarge numbers of horses.
The 1971 law Congress passed allocating land to the horses also authorizes numerous commercial and noncommercial activities on that property, including livestock grazing, energy development and outdoor recreation.
Advocates maintain that cattle chew up much of the forage on the 31.6 million acres of herd-managed range.