Wild horses are slaughtered after breeding too fast: Mustangs roam America’s plains ‘dangerous 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 US territories in ten states
- Another 50,000 in temporary pastures
- Officials say population has reached ‘critical mass’
An icon of the American West and a symbol of the country’s frontier history, hundreds of mustang horses are now being slaughtered due to overcrowding.
Under existing laws, the government pays ranchers to take in thousands of these “wild” horses every year to keep population numbers down. Mustangs are not a native species in the Americas and are known to have a negative effect on natural ecosystems.
The current system for managing these threats has been in place since 1971, but now rising feed costs have resulted in a growing number of American ranchers refusing to adopt mustangs.
Mustangs are considered a symbol of the frontier history of the American West
The government uses helicopters to capture mustangs and thin populations
Campaigners say helicopter herding is cruel and doesn’t differentiate the fit horses from the old and young populations
According to activists, pregnant mares and young foals are sometimes stomped through miles and miles of rugged terrain terrein
Officials have warned that the government’s own pastures and short-term stalls are exceeding capacity.
The result could mean that thousands of this precious race will be slaughtered to contain the overpopulation.
In ten western US states, an estimated 37,000 wild horses and wild donkeys roam the mountain ranges.
Officials say this is 11,000 more than the manageable population, and the numbers are expected to double every four years.
There are currently about 50,000 wild horses and donkeys kept in temporary pastures, three times as many as a decade ago.
Despite the overpopulation crisis 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 wild herds, helicopters are used to hunt mustangs into traps. Some activists find this cruel and harmful to a species they believe America should protect.
Suzanne Roy of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign said pregnant mares and foals are stamped by helicopters over miles of rugged terrain.
“Helicopters aren’t demanding,” she said. “They stamp the very old and the very young with the fit.”
Authorities have been accused of managing mustangs to extinction. But only 99 of the 11,000 collected from 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 would rather clear land from feral horses to make way for livestock
Officials estimate that just under 50,000 wild horses are kept in temporary pasture
There remains a controversy as to whether the mustang can be considered a native animal in North America
Ms. Roy denies this and questions the wisdom surrounding the belief that America’s land cannot support mustang populations.
She claims that the legislation weighs heavily in favor of farmers who need the land freed up 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, ‘Logistics, [contraception] is very hard. It has not been shown to be a magical solution.’
The United States Congress has recognized the mustang as “a living symbol of the historic and pioneering spirit of the West.”
The first Mustangs descended from Iberian horses 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 tamed for human use.
This has led to a dispute over whether it is entirely correct to call the mustang “wild” as it is the descendant of a domesticated breed that is not native to its natural habitat.
Native Americans quickly adopted the horse as a primary mode of transportation. They were also used in battles, trade and hunting, especially bison hunting.
Some environmentalists argue that the mustang should be considered native, as there is evidence that horses roamed North America in ancient times.
More than half of all Mustangs in North America 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,” Tom Gorey added. “And we don’t see an immediate solution.”