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Health, Science & Environment

Science Panel Studies Wild Horse Management

Dan Bammes

  A panel of scientists working with the National Research Council released its report this week on the management of wild horses in the West.  One of the experts is from Brigham Young University. 

Steve Petersen is an associate professor in B-Y-U’s Department of Plant and Wildlife Sciences.  He studies the ecosystems of western rangelands where wild horses live.  He says one of the problems they had was getting an accurate count of the number of horses on public land.  The population can double in four years and triple in six.  So he says they also looked at ways to limit how fast they reproduce.

Petersen told KUER in an interview “We had a couple of people who were great, on that committee, at reproduction physiology, and they talked a lot about and looked into the research of looking at different techniques for contraception, for birth control for horses.  And it’s something that has to be considered and thought out very carefully.”

Petersen says the goal was to give the Bureau of Land Management some solid science to base its management practices on, but they didn’t take a position on whether it should stop its mustang roundups.  He says the goal is to maintain healthy populations of wild horses.

“That is the goal," Petersen says.  "You’re not having a serious impact to other ecological resources.  Nobody argues with that.  I think that’s an important thing to do is maintain this good balance.”

The group American Wild Horse Preservation calls the report a “scathing rebuke” of the B-L-M’s current management practices.  It's demanding an immediate halt to wild horse roundups.

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