Wild Horses in Trouble

The February 2009 National Geographic magazine, both paper and online, has an excellent but sobering article about the plight of the wild horses in the ten Western states where they are trying to survive. Writer Alexandra Fuller gives a little of the history of the horses and mentions “Cattle Annie” who was largely responsible for federal protection of the horses. (See my article about Cattle Annie in the “Protecting Horses” section.) Fuller points out that the wild animals have been besieged by stock men and their cattle and sheep, machines on their range, helicopters, cars, and trucks, and now the added insult, the struggle to find oil under the Western ground where these animals live. The Bureau of Land Management is supposed to see that they are safe and that they are kept at workable, manageable levels on the Bureau’s 258 million acres. The Bureau oversees about 30,000 horses. At prescribed intervals, a number of horses are rounded up (called a “gather”) by helicopters and cowboys and the animals have uncertain fates. A particularly interesting part of the article deals with efforts to try a contraceptive solution to reduce the numbers of the fertile mares, but Fuller says that the Bureau is cool to the idea. What’s going to happen to these horses who many feel represent the spirit of America?

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