Arts and Culture

Wild Horses Vs. Government


By Bell Long 

For decades, the fight between animal activists and government officials have been gaining coverage in the media. In the past few years multiple things have come to the public’s attention; one being what to do with the growing wild horse population in the Western United States. There are two main sides to this argument.

Horse lovers and animals activists in general feel strongly that the wild horse population should be left alone and take whatever route nature has planned. On the other side, there are rumors of government officials planning to relocate, domesticate, or kill the wild horses.

Rumors of the Government’s plan to kill 4.500 horses ran wildly throughout media such as Facebook, so much so that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wrote a ‘true and false’ article.

The BLM reported that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) have been brainstorming ways to regulate the wild horse population. NAS suggested that leaving the wild horses to increase as they have been would lead to “self- limitation”. The population would skyrocket, ultimately putting all of the horses at risk of dehydration, disease, and/or starvation.    

The BLM, in fact, denied ever having held, or planned to hold/sell off wild horses.

Wild Horses Slaughter

States that have the highest population of wild horses and burros are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.  

State Horses Burros Total Max. AML
Arizona 318 5,317 5,635 1,676
California 4,925 3,391 8,316 2,200
Colorado 1,530 0 1,530 812
Idaho 468 0 468 617
Montana 160 0 160 120
Nevada 31,979 2,552 34,531 12,811
New          Mexico 171 0 171 83
Oregon 3,785 56 3,841 2,715
Utah 5,440 400 5,840 1,956
Wyoming 6,535 0 6,535 3,725
Total 55,311 11,716 67,027 26,715


In the chart above, each state has a number of horses and burros, as well as the total number and the Appropriate Management Land Max (AML).*

The next chart shows the number of horses and burros that were taken from their natural habitats between the years of 2012 to 2015.

Horses Burros Total
Removals in Fiscal Year 2015 3,093 726 3,819
Removals in FY 2014 1,689 168 1,857
Removals in FY 2013 4,064 112 4,176
Removals in FY 2012 7,242 1,013 8,255

Another suggestion for what to do with wild horses and burros is to have them adopted. While this is an option, the number of adoptions per year versus the rapidly growing population is not a reasonable solution.


Horses Burros Total
Animals Adopted in Fiscal Year 2015 2,331 300 2,631
Animals Adopted in FY 2014 1,789 346 2,135
Animals Adopted in FY 2013 2,033 278 2,311
Animals Adopted in FY 2012 2,232 351 2,583

Selling animals into private care has proven to work either very well or disastrously. Sometimes these animals are rehabilitated and given a loving, supportive homes. Other times animals are starved, beaten or otherwise abused. Now compare the table above to the table below, which shows the amount of horses and burros sold into private care.

Horses Burros Total
Animals Sold in Fiscal Year 2015 87 180 267
Animals Sold in FY 2014 23 64 87
Animals Sold in FY 2013 22 43 65
Animals Sold in FY 2012 320 82 402

So far, according to the table above and the data gathered by multiple reliable new sources, such as the New York Times, organizations and individuals have been working to find a solution for the wild horses and burros. The difficulty in this is finding a way to deal with the large amount of horses and burros in a way that keeps both animal activists and government officials happy.


If readers would like to view the Bureau of Land Management article of facts and myths click here.

* The AML is the amount of livestock that a specific amount of land can provide for without detrimental damages occurring.

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