Controversial roundup of wild horses underway

BLM roundup of wild horses in Nevada is heated-

Los Angeles Times on the Nevada “roundup

My view on wild or “feral” horses and burros is that they are non-natives species that, like cattle, damage the range and harm native wildlife. The BLM’s preoccupation with them, rather than making sure the land barons properly manage their cattle on public lands, is excessive.

Although I’d like to see them kept in relatively low numbers, I generally stop and watch them. They do look good.

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Related story. BLM to put over 800 wild horses on Spanish Q Ranch near Ennis, Montana. By Daniel Person. Bozeman Chronicle.



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  1. Nature rules Avatar
    Nature rules

    Well at least the horses will get medical care if needed, and turned out to other pastures and not killed. some may die in the capture which is sad. they may not be native to some, but I cherish them and am glad they can not be killed.

  2. Ryan Avatar

    “they may not be native to some”

    There not native to north america, some just choose to ignore this fact.

  3. Cris Waller Avatar

    “There not native to north america, some just choose to ignore this fact.”

    Actually, horses evolved in North America, but were wiped out possibly as late as 7600 years ago- see So, in reality, horses are more “native” than we are :>D

  4. mikepost Avatar

    Cris, not the same horses, not the same gene pool. The critical fact is that the western ecosystem evolved in the last post-glacial period without horses in any impactive number in the mix until the 18th century. Man, on the other hand, was here in numbers from just about the beginning of that period. In addition, a number of these horses are really 1st generation feral horses having been dumped by destitute or uncaring owners in this recessional period.

    Once again the general public and our politicians show a tragic bias for a “cute & loveable” species over most natives and endangered species. Too bad the $50 million can’t be spent on real wildlife.

    The BLM plan may be flawed but it is better than leaving those feral horses on the range to do their damage.

  5. Bob Caesar Avatar
    Bob Caesar

    You all make some interesting points relative to the “nativness” of wild horses. As for me they represent an important part of the puzzle called “the American West”.

    Personally, being a domestic horse person, I find a great deal peace, even satisfaction, in seeing these magnificent animals living – wild and free. After all no matter on what Continent the horses (like us humans) were at one time wild and free. They cause me to recall how much I enjoyed being “free”…and a tad “wild” from time to time!

    As with us humans the problem with wild horses is there are simply too many of them – too many of us!

  6. Derrick Bosco Avatar
    Derrick Bosco

    I’m all with having horses on the scene…the fact is the American landscape is inundated with feral exotics of all kinds. Being realistic the majority of these are here to stay. What offends me is how horses are elevated above other wildlife due to the emotions many people share toward them. Let them stay and let them be managed appropriately. Not by corralling them and dumping tax payer money toward their care. Have a hunting season and allow them to butchered like elk and deer. Horse is pretty tasty and if a market doesn’t develop in the US we can finally start exporting something for a change

  7. Ryan Avatar


    Perhaps we should reintroduce African Elephants as wooly mammoths were native about the same time.

  8. Anthony Avatar

    I’m all for removing wild horses if they also remove the cattle, otherwise what’s the point in it.

  9. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Actually wild horses can and often times are far more destructive than cattle.

    I don’t think we are going to ever remove all of the feral horses, but they do need to be controlled in some manner..just as cattle on public lands need to be.

    As far as human populations, people keep talking about there are to many of us, but I would like to see a proposal on what to do about it?

  10. Anthony Avatar

    Now that I don’t believe! At least from my experience in the chukar canyons.

  11. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Well during my studies in school, we found many areas that horses are far more detrimental to the environment than cattle, and I am sure it varies based on several factors.

    But neither species is native to the western landscape and need to be managed..

  12. Ryan Avatar

    “Now that I don’t believe! At least from my experience in the chukar canyons.”

    Almost every study backs that up that per animal Horses are much harder on the enviroment.

  13. Salle Avatar

    Most of the reports fail to mention the fact hat the BLM reduced the size of the hoses’ range, incrementally, over the past several years and given it to cattle grazing thus artificially creating a situation where the horses’ population size is “seen to be” exceeding the the range capacity.

    Get the freaking cattle off the open range and leave the horses alone.

    Yet another wasteful use of taxpayer $$$.

  14. Anthony Avatar

    Maybe so, but you are spinning you wheels if you remove 5 horses and replace them with 10 cows. My point is why bother if you don’t also remove cows. This is just another form of welfare ranching.

  15. Ryan Avatar

    They are both a problem, but once again this is an debate where logic is lost and replaced with emotion, because horses are so cuddly and everyone remembers riding one at one time as a kid. Go to places where there are no cattle and see the damage horses have done. Its not pretty, and it seems one can’t fully understand impacts it seems until they have seen them first hand.


    Lets remove atleast semi managed non native and let a much more destructive one take take over with no controls.

  16. Ryan Avatar

    to cont:

    sounds like a great idea to me! 🙁

  17. Ryan Avatar

    “Maybe so, but you are spinning you wheels if you remove 5 horses and replace them with 10 cows. My point is why bother if you don’t also remove cows. This is just another form of welfare ranching.”


    So what you saying is that 2 evils are better than 1 evil? How is it welfare ranching? They don’t add more cows when the horses are removed and the removal of the wild horses benefits the desert ecosystem as a whole, which us as the public benefits from.

    So can you explain to me why removing feral non native horses off the landscape is a bad idea? Please try and use Logic and not emotion.

  18. Salle Avatar

    And just what controls are observed by the cattle industry? The fact that they occasionally remove their trashy cattle? Only to replace them with more than the range can handle? And on taxpayer welfare?

    I have seen wild horses out in Wyoming and Nevada, they are beautiful to see, unlike cows. They were also a danger to me as I was driving across the open range in a semi ~ 80,000lbs. ~ and they are nearly impossible to see at night. What I found valuable about that is that I actually had to pay extra attention to the wildness of the places I traveled through, and that was well worth the experience of being on “total alert” during those times. Nothing “cuddly” about it, sportsfans.

  19. Salle Avatar

    And furthermore, the horses were out there on the range long before cattle by a couple-few hundred years.

  20. Anthony Avatar

    Ryan, since you are a little slow, in many areas horses are being removed so cattle have more forage. That is welfare ranching. Back to my original point , why bother if you don’t also remove cows. I think you just like to argue. I don’t care which one does more damage.

  21. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Wild horses are kind of like feral cattle, both having become more honorable animals by throwing up the taint of farm induced weakness.

    Also, wild horses just plain look nice.

    I like to see them. I know it’s wrong, kind of like that woman who isn’t your . . . . .

  22. Ryan Avatar

    “And just what controls are observed by the cattle industry? The fact that they occasionally remove their trashy cattle? Only to replace them with more than the range can handle?”


    Lets see cross fencing, pasture rotation and total removal for winter time months in many locations. Wild horses have none of these controls. Where we spend most of our time in southern OR, the impacts of rotation are pretty significant and the rest the land gets makes big difference in how sage grows and undergrowth.

    BTW, cattle have been here from the late 1500’s as well.


    The additional forage is also used by native animals including endangered species. Go check out Sheldon sometime and then go check out Hart its night and day atleast from the north side of Hart to Sheldon.

    I agree some of them look nice as do some cattle, that doesn’t mitigate the damage they cause.

  23. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    As a mustang “owner,” the last way I’d describe them is as “cute and cuddly.” They are, despite their domestic background, wild animals. They are extraordinarily loyal once you’ve worked with them for a while, but you can never drop your guard around them or on them. On the other hand, no other breed is as sure footed in or better suited for the mountains.

    Regarding roundups, it still comes down to the fact that they are pursued and locked up for the benefit of the livestock industry, not the range. Horses may or may not do as much damage individually to the range as cattle or sheep, but the fact still remains there are millions of domestic livestock on overgrazed ranges and only app. 30K horses. This means that removing horses doesn’t solve the range problem. Only removing livestock would do that.


  24. mikepost Avatar

    Salle; those horses and cows showed up at the same time, brought by the same European peoples. They brought the new world Yellow Star Thistle too along with Small Pox, etc. Need to get your history right…

  25. izabelam Avatar

    Cows showed up in Montana around 1870’s and Wyoming around 1884.(cattle drive from Texas, Kansas)
    Spanish colonists introduced horses to North America in the sixteenth century.
    Early colonists brought cows to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1611 and to the Plymouth Colony in 1624 …
    so…horses were first….

  26. mikepost Avatar

    izabelam: cattle came with some of the earliest Spanish explorers, perhaps not to Jamestown, but certainly to North America and points south. Perhaps you should read Dana’s “Two Years Before the Mast” and discover that by the early 1800’s there were 100,000’s of cattle in California and Mexico, other places as well.

    The contemporaries to the very first Spanish explorers brought pigs and cattle as well as horses. You may not want to believe it, but I urge you to educate yourself. Certainly horses (domesticated) were the revolutionary introduction to North America and they were very adaptable to feral living, more so than cows.

    And quite frankly, who cares what critter came first, the impacts are what we are discussing. Giving horses some “mystic” status because they arrived in the late 1500’s (and there is no evidence that any of those particular horses survived/bred versus later landings) and cattle arrived in the early 1600’s is frivolous. They are both feral non-native species that have negatively impacted the ecosystem. We accept the trade offs: meat, draft animals, recreation, transportation but in the end they are both feral invasive species.

  27. nabeki Avatar

    Oh for godsakes, there are about 50,000 wild horses and over 105, 000,000 million cattle grazing on public and private land. I think the horses are just fine where they are. It’s cruel to round up these wild animals and place them in holding pens, most are totallly unadoptable.

    “Mustang herds vary in the degree to which they can be traced to original Iberian horses. Some contain a greater genetic mixture of ranch stock and more recent breed releases, while others are relatively unchanged from the original Iberian stock, most strongly represented in the most isolated populations.”

    Kiger Mustangs

    Here in Montana the Pryor Mountain Horses have some Spanish blood:

    Let’s get the cattle off public land and leave the mustangs alone.

  28. mikepost Avatar

    Nabeki: there are only 50,000 feral horses BECAUSE they have been rounded up and sold/adopted, shot on sight, butchered for meat and canned as pet food or otherwise eliminated in the 100,000’s over the last 70 years. If all that had not happened (and most of it can’t now) we would be looking at an ecological nightmare.
    Cows may be the numerical giant but there is no absolute prohibition against getting rid of them like there is now with feral horses.

  29. Ryan Avatar

    “Mustang herds vary in the degree to which they can be traced to original Iberian horses. Some contain a greater genetic mixture of ranch stock and more recent breed releases, while others are relatively unchanged from the original Iberian stock, most strongly represented in the most isolated populations.”


    They are still feral livestock. There are a shitload of cows, but they are seperate issues. Unfortunately most here have intense cases of Myopia.

  30. Ryan Avatar

    NV is going to town as well, these won’t make a ranch.

  31. JB Avatar

    How long does a species need to be present in an ecosystem before it is considered native? (Just curious what people think.)

    Also, what makes an animal “wild” versus “feral”?

  32. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    …lets not even start with the feral burros…..8*>

  33. Jay Avatar

    Let’s swap out cows and horses for zebras…they’re much prettier than both. That makes as much sense as keeping horses on the landscape.

  34. mikepost Avatar

    JB: the term “feral” denotes a non-native domesticated species that has become a wild critter. We have feral horses, feral pigs even, dare I say it, feral cattle. You hear the term most often re feral house cats that have taken up a wild life style…yet another of the destructive feral species.

  35. kt Avatar

    Here’s a link to an article exposing what a lying pack of scoundrels are running Nevada and Winnemucca BLM (especially its Range Staff).

    They lied in a Soldier Meadows grazing decision in Jan 2008 about the number of horses in the Calico area.

    BLM’s Jan, 2008 Decision said the horses were at AML (the level that they were supposed to be at) and BLM used this to justify increasing cow numbers, and also increasing how much the cows could eat (% utilization) on those lands. In March 2008, BLM suddenly discovered several times as many horses than BLM had claimed were on the range only two months prior. And the increase in cow numbers? That was done for a wealthy hobby rancher. Oh, and the sudden March discovery of more horses – BLM had really known about that as early as 2007, too – but buried that so they could increase cows.

    Ms. Eckel, the BLM horse specialist at the time (she has since quit) told the truth in the spring 2009 testimony linked to below.

    Unfortunately, the Winnemucca Range staff that helped perpetrate the lies of the Decision are still in place, and BLM at the state office level is a bunch of Good Old Boys doing all it can to cover this up.

    Part of the real urgency for BLM rounding up the horses in the dead of winter is that a giant gas line company (El Paso Ruby Pipeline) is imminently going to be rubberstamped by BLM to cut through and destroy a really remote landscape – right where the Calico Gather is occurring. Someone should investigate the links between all these energy companies in Colorado (where Ruby LLC is based) and all of Ken Salazar’s good buddies … and all the favors being done for energy of every stripe (renewable and non-renewable like Ruby).

  36. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Ralph, I have to agree with you that cattle should be managed mroe than horses. They are non-native but I have to admit I stop to take a look when I see them. So neat to see a herd running full speed.

  37. izabelam Avatar

    Thank you for advising me to educate myself. I am not a little girl to educate. Want to talk about impact? have you seen any cow pastures lately? Cows polute soil and water. They destroy river banks and meadows..but…cows bring money ..wild horses not. is the impact..what brings more money makes bigger impacts on decisions.

  38. mikepost Avatar

    izabelam: did not mean to insult you, but there is a danger in making assertions in support of a position that are not based on historical facts. I do not dispute your assessments of the impacts of cattle on public lands but that should not cloud the discussion about feral horses. Happy New Year.

  39. Ryan Avatar


    Nice propagana piece posted there, every single piece of peer review literature (not the bullshit posted on the horse lover webistes) has stated that feral horses are not good for the native ecosystems, you know the microbial curst you talk about, the same stuff you rail on cattle about destroying horses do it too. Why are horses more special then cattle then? Perfect world, no cattle, no sheep, no horses, no burros on our public lands no one nonnative is any more special than the other imho.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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