Group urges real-time cameras, temperature restrictions, more fertility control; Summer gather operations could resume in days
Photo by Laura Leigh,
WASHINGTON, (HSUS) – \— The Humane Society of the United States released a report it recently submitted to the Bureau of Land Management, calling on the agency to make several critical improvements to its standard operating procedures (SOP) for wild horse gathers.
The report calls on the agency to conduct a fair and unbiased comprehensive evaluation of its gather SOPs to ensure that these policies are consistent with the most up-to-date science available on wild horse behavior and focus on the immediate and long-term needs of the animals involved in gather operations. These proposed recommendations would immediately enhance the transparency, humaneness and efficiency of these controversial operations.
“The BLM has faced withering criticism over its decisions to gather and remove too many horses from public lands and to conduct its gathers in ways that cause harm and suffering to the horses,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS.
“If BLM is going to continue to gather horses, it must rehaul its procedures, and this report provides a blueprint for that.”
The report comes just days before the BLM could resume summer gather operations in Western states, and one of its most critical recommendations is to set acceptable temperature ranges for conducting gather operations.
In the past, the BLM has failed to suspend helicopter drive trapping gather operations in extreme weather conditions.
Such conditions undoubtedly increase the risk for gather-related injuries, illnesses and deaths and may have contributed, in part, to wild horse deaths that have occurred at gathers conducted in the months of July and August when temperatures at Herd Management Areas in the Western states are known to exceed 90 degrees. To minimize and/or eliminate the loss of lives at future gathers, The HSUS report recommends that the BLM err on the side of caution and animal welfare by refraining from conducting helicopter drive trapping gathers in temperatures above 90 degrees or below 32 degrees until a proposed expert panel can develop performance-based standards.
To improve transparency, the report also recommends the installation of real-time cameras on contractor helicopters, traps, corrals and holding facilities that would not only provide BLM personnel with the ability to better observe and direct gather operations from a safe location, but it would also serve as a powerful tool for evaluating and improving existing gather procedures and provide the public with the ability to observe and document gather activities remotely via live-streaming on the Internet.
As a broader strategic management issue, The HSUS strongly recommends that the BLM increase its use of the fertility control agent Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) to manage wild horse and burro populations, and that these population control programs be designed to inoculate the appropriate ratio of total mares in a herd (between 65 percent and 85 percent) between November and February in order to optimize the benefits of this more humane and cost effective management tool.
Since September 2010, the BLM has received more than 55,000 comments from the public on the agency’s “Wild Horse and Burro Program Strategy Development Document” and the “Proposed Strategy: Details of the BLM’s Proposed Strategy for Future Management of America’s Wild Horses and Burros.” Nearly all of these comments criticized the BLM’s management program and urged more protection of wild horses and burros.