August 23, 2010 – Fertility Control Program Scoping Notice

The Bureau of Land Management’s Billings Field Office has put out the following press release:

Release Date: 08/18/10

Mary Apple 406-896-5258
Greg Albright 406-896-5260

Public Invited to Provide Input on Wild Horse Fertility Control Program

BILLINGS – The public is invited to provide input as the Bureau of Land Management begins updating its fertility control program for wild horses on the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.

Fertility control would help limit herd growth so the wild horse population could be maintained at the appropriate management level more easily, thus limiting or reducing the need for gathers and helping to prevent deterioration of the range associated with overpopulation.

The new program would begin in the upcoming fiscal year and could last up to five years. Fertility control, in the form of a Porca Zona Pellucida (PZP) vaccine, has been used on select mares in the Pryors since 2001.
Written comments on the scope of this environmental assessment should be sent to: Jim Sparks, BLM Billings Field Office, 5001 Southgate Dr., Billings, Mont. 59101, by September 16. Written comments, including the names and addresses of commenters, will be available for public review. Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment, including your personal identifying information, may be publicly available at any time. While you can ask in your comment that your personal identifying information be withheld from public review, BLM cannot guarantee that it will be able to do so.

For more information, contact BLM’s wild horse specialist, Jared Bybee, at 896-5223.

The BLM manages more land – more than 245 million acres – than any other Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The Bureau, with a budget of about $1 billion, also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources on public lands.

Billings Field Office 5001 Southgate Drive Billings, MT 59101

The scoping notice can be read by clicking here.

Also, I thought it would be good to post a link to the latest version of the PZP Q&A. This can be downloaded by clicking here. This is a great source of information. The questions answered within the document are all based on actual scientific studies done, and there is a very useful annotated bibliography to go along with this content as well.

I’d invite everyone to read this scoping notice, read over the PZP Q&A, and even go look over my PZP blog series here. After this, the BLM would appreciate any comments that you might have to help them in this planning process. Again, comments should be submitted by September 16.

Published in: on August 23, 2010 at 4:06 pm  Comments (10)  

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  1. Matt, i am shocked that yearling fillies are given PZP. I have heard BLM has done this and that it is not recommended. I know fillies are dosed who have never had a foal. Is this intended?? This is wrong. No two ways about it. mar

    • Hello,
      Thanks for taking the time to look over these things and ask about them! As you’ve pointed out, there were yearlings treated in the early 2000’s. However, there were no yearlings treated during the 2009 and 2010 treatments. The youngest horses treated during the gather were two year olds (born in 2007); there are five of these. I have noticed that it is fairly common now to only see two year olds and up treated.
      Thanks again,

  2. Hi Matt,
    That is such great information! It sounds like the research on Assateague Island has been carefully monitored for 22 years. If what they are saying is true, it sounds like a viable solution to keeping the numbers in check. It hasn’t wiped out their herds. I think it sounds like the PZP is a better solution than “Gathers” where herd families are separated and sometimes injured. I don’t like interfering with mother nature in people or animals, but sometimes man has to intervene and I think it sounds like a good solution. As we know there are 30K horses in holding pens.

    • Hello,
      Thanks for the comment! The Assateague herd has definitely been closely monitored over time, especially in those years since PZP has been used. You’ve hit on the head – We are living in a time when we have limited management options, and so we have to figure out which option we think will work the best.

  3. What’s tha old saying—“you can’t please all the people all the time”. How true. And SOME people, you can NEVER please. The best approach, in my opinion, is to consider all the facts, weigh the alternatives, and go forward with what seems to be the best path to follow under the current circumstances. All things considered, PZP seems to be the best choice for now. As far as I know, that method involves little or no “handling” of the wild animal, no hazing in any kind of weather or over any type of terrain with motorized vehicles and no demoralizing containment in holding facilities.

    IN A PERFECT WORLD, we horse lovers could have it our way, with never a horse injured or denied it’s TOTAL freedom. But it isn’t a perfect world we live in. So, I’m thankful for the contributions the scientific community have added to the mix of our stewardship of land and management of animals. The ideal situation would be no interference from man for any reason, but Mother Nature would be responsible for numbers control in some very ugly and painful ways then. It’s going to happen, one way or another.

    There’s only one thing I think is a little unfair. It seems too bad they can’t come up with an injection that would temporarily sterilize the males so both sexes could share the experience [risks involved] of birth control.

    As far as age factors with sterilization, the spay and neuter programs supported by Humane Societies for domestic pets don’t seem to elicit the same reaction when applied to those types of animals. Spayed and neutered animals seem to be just as healthy and happy as those who have not been treated, even when it is done early in life. That has been the experience I have had with my animals. And, in the case of wild horses, at least PZP is reversible in time, if desired, for genetic viability issues.

    Keep up the good work educating us Matt. The more I know the more secure I am in the belief that the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustangs are in good hands thru the maze of bureaucracy, environmental issues and man-made controversy they face. I only wish I could feel the same for all the other wild horses out there.

    Maybe one day…

    • Linda,
      Thanks so much for your comment! I think you’ve given a great perspective on this complex issue!

  4. Thanks Matt. I always enjoy your updates on the Pryor horses and related issues.

    I recently read something that disturbed me. I think it was on the USFS site, but I’m not sure. It was about choosing horses to PZP, geld, or release without contraception based on their breeding potential for larger and more colorful offspring to make the horses more attractive to adopters.

    In my opinion, that’s taking the Mustang out of the Mustang! It will remove the very size and toughness that has allowed them to survive on the range all these years. What about potential inbreeding and recessive genes in “color” horses?

    I though the BLM was supposed to be about protecting and managing wild horses, not breeding them.

    • Linda,
      Thanks for your comment and question. What you have described is something that is commonly seen – Horses chosen for retention have a certain phenotype. Personally, I think that there can be a time and place for this. However, it shouldn’t be the primary feature that is looked at. The reason for this, as you have alluded to, is that nature doesn’t care how pretty you are. Survival comes down to maintaining a genetically healthy herd. What I am a huge believer in is kinship. Instead of making decisions on appearance, I think they should be made based on the genetic contributions an individual has made. Basically, this involves ensuring that everyone gets to reproduce. However, their total contribution to the population is limited. The magnitude of this limit is based on the relative contribution that the individual’s family line has contributed to the population. That is, if a mare is from a large line, then she may not have as many offspring as a mare from a small line. This is how it is done on ASIS. There was actually a paper just published on the implications of this very topic (Here is a link to the abstract). I’m hoping to eventually be able to put the full paper here too. This approach may not be totally applicable in all wild horse herds yet, but there are some where it could have great success. In my opinion, this includes the Pryor horses, given what we know about the herd’s kinship.

      • Thanks so much, Matt. So there IS science. And pretty extensive at that – with a long list of contributors, citations and links. Certainly will be pouring over this one!!!

        My BLM submisssion includes a proposal for a double-blind study model – continous, boots-on the ground monitoring, management and appropriate removals. It doesn’t include genetics, because I didn’t feel I had quality information.

        Thanks again.

  5. Matt,
    Thought I could come and see our horses this year, but couldn’t get a hotel room or a car so I can only hope that I can see you and our horses next year if I live that long. Still would love to have something from the gift shop.
    Love Ya like a son,

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