Protestors say the BLM office in Montana is trying to wipe out the state’s last herd of wild horses. That herd lives in the Pryor Mountains in Montana and Wyoming. The group marched into the Billings Field office recently, demanding the agency abandon plans to round up horses and use birth control on the mares.
The Pryor Mountains are home to the internationally famous “Cloud” stallion, a pale palomino wild horse whose family is one of several that live in the Pryors. But, there are other wild horse herds in northern Wyoming. Commercial tours take people to see the McCullough Peaks herd near Cody. The mares in that herd have been darted with a contraceptive called PZP for years, and local wild horse advocates are pleased with the results.
Warren Murphy is the president of the board of a group called FOAL, which stands for Friends of a Legacy. He said, “Presently, I think we’re about 140 horses. We’ve not had a roundup there by helicopter for many years. The horses love it out there. People love to see them out there.”
But a group called Friends of Animals protested the proposed use of PZP at the Billings B.L.M. Field office. They also protested the agencies plans to round up the horses, and take 25 of them out of the herd for adoption. FOA Campaigns Director Edita Birnkrant said they could wipe out the heard.
But BLM spokesman Al Nash said the agency is trying to protect the herd. He said helicopters won’t be used for what he calls, “the gather”.
Nash explained, “Our approach to gathering horses is to have a fenced in area, put out water and feed. They walk in, we select a small group, and release the rest.”
Nash said because of the popularity of the “Cloud” group, the BLM’s Pryor horses are always adopted.
“There’s only so much landscape, and there’s only so much forage. And so our job is to manage for a healthy wild horse herd, and to manage for a healthy range.”
Birnkrant of Friends of Animals pointed out the wild horses were allowed only 25,000 acres to roam in the Pryors. They are also concerned that horses are subjected to the fertility drug PZP.
Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick, whose non-profit organization produces the drug in Billings, says it’s being used to control horse, bison, and elephant numbers around the world. It’s also used in many zoos.
Kirkpatrick said, “We have wild horse ranges that have reduced or eliminated the need to round up and remove wild horses on the range.”
Kirkpatrick said it’s cruel to not control the Pryor population because the animals will starve.
“We fenced them. They can’t roam three hundred miles to meet environmental challenges like drought, or bad winters. They’re trapped. I watched one half of the Pryor Mountain herd die in 1977 four hundred yards from where they could have survived. But, they couldn’t get there because of the fence.”
Kirkpatrick said the McCullough Peaks herd near Cody has benefited from the BLM’s PZP treatments.
He said, "They’re into their fourth year. They reached zero population growth in three years. McCullough Peaks is one of the most spectacular and successful management programs we have out here." Kirkpatrick said several economic studies show the contraceptive approach can save the taxpayers millions.