Removing horses from the wild

You may be surprised to learn that right now, there are tens of thousands of horses running wild and free across America’s western states. The Bureau of Land Management is charged with preserving and protecting these animals. The agency maintains that population control is essential to protect not only the wild horses, but other animals and livestock on the western range lands. Every year, the Bureau conducts roundups of some of those wild horses. The first priority is to adopt out as many as possible into private care, but most end up living in long-term holding pastures.The roundups are not without opponents. Wild horse advocates say the practice threatens the future of the herds.  Filmmaker Ginger Kathrens is one of these activists. She has spent years studying and documenting wild horses. She produced three films for Nature about a horse she named Cloud, who lives in the remote Pryor Mountains of Montana. Today, she continues to follow Cloud and his herd.

We meet up with Kathrens on her ranch in Colorado to find out why she’s dedicated her life’s work to these animals. We also meet some horses Kathrens herself has adopted from the wild.

Watch the rest of the segments from this episode.

 
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Comments

  • Equilibrium1

    When it comes to living in Nevada, there is no free lunch. That
    wild stallion’s breakfast would (should) have been some native species’ lunch.
    Why couldn’t you give equal coverage to the advances of amorous young pronghorn
    and elk?

  • Taylor72

    This was a segement on wild horses! Which have been around since the begining of time! The mustang roamed North America’s great plains for around 700 years!  They were brought over by spanish explorers!  They have gone with us to war, been our mode of transport, helped build this country! Are you seriously this IGNORANT?  YOU sound like a FOOL!  I can’t stand uneducated MORONS like YOU!  Get a clue & appreciate how this country was built & how!!! ( it wasn’t by elk)  IDIOTS like YOU would & SHOULD be eaten by ANYTHING!! ( anything that can choke down your ignorant, most likely fat ass)

  • Anonymous

    One should mention the 100 or so wild mustangs surviving (hopefully) on the Outer Banks of N.Carolina. So, I just did.

  • Anonymous

    One should mention the 100 or so wild mustangs surviving (hopefully) on the Outer Banks of N.Carolina. So, I just did.

  • Anonymous

    One should mention the 100 or so wild mustangs surviving (hopefully) on the Outer Banks of N.Carolina. So, I just did.

  • Anonymous

    One should mention the 100 or so wild mustangs surviving (hopefully) on the Outer Banks of N.Carolina. So, I just did.

  • Lilycircle

    I can’t believe there are people who don’t know there are wild horses in the west. People never cease to amaze!

  • Lilycircle

    I can’t believe there are people who don’t know there are wild horses in the west. People never cease to amaze!

  • Lilycircle

    I can’t believe there are people who don’t know there are wild horses in the west. People never cease to amaze!

  • lindenlea

    Thank you so much for presenting this excellent story, which up until now has not been getting the press coverage it deserves. I found it particularly interesting that the story came immediately after the interview with Mark Bittman about food and food policy, and I only wish that you had gone further on this story to make the connection between the two issues. “Equilibrium1″ claims that wild horses are crowding out other wild species, but this is incorrect. The real threat to western public range lands is rather privately owned livestock, whose numbers continue to increase dramatically, while numbers of both wild horses and other wild species are declining as they are crowded out by burgeoning livestock numbers. Private cattle ranching is also behind the BLM’s relentless program of wild horse roundups, as ranchers continue to have undue influence over BLM policy, even though the agency is charged with managing western public lands for a wide variety of multiple uses and sustainable yields. The ranching lobby continues to blame degradation of western range lands on wild horses, despite the fact that they are vastly outnumbered by much more environmentally destructive privately owned cattle and sheep. There is nothing new about this; in fact, degradation of western public lands by overgrazing of privately owned livestock has been going for at least a century and helped lead to the conditions that created the dust bowl disaster, which in turn led to the passing of the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act. As conditions continued to deteriorate during the 20th century, Congress enacted the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, to address the problem. Among its provisions, the 1976 legislation requires the federal government to collect fair market value for the use of public lands and their resources. Right now, the BLM regularly violates that law, by collecting only a small fraction of fair market value from the few (mostly wealthy large corporate) ranching interests which hold livestock grazing permits for the privilege of grazing their stock on our public lands- lands for which they pay no taxes or maintenance costs. This amounts to a huge subsidy for large corporate meat producers (mostly beef). It’s a subsidy which those well-connected corporate ranchers don’t need, and as Mark Bittman points out, the last thing Americans need is to add even more cheap beef to our diets. Worse still, we Americans are not only subsidizing dirt cheap grazing for a few rich ranchers, but we are also being stuck with the cost of the BLM’s wild horse roundup program which is inhumane, has resulted in numerous injuries and fatalities and wasted millions of dollars taxpayer dollars to date, and as Ginger Kathrens correctly points out, will result in the extinction of these federally protected animals if the policy is not reversed as soon as possible. In addition, in response to “Equilibrium1″, I would like to point out that domestic livestock represent by far the greatest threat to western range lands, they are also the greatest direct threat to the health of other wild species through disease transmission. A case in point is the problem of transmission of pneumonia-causing Pasteurella bacteria from domestic sheep to wild pronghorns. So, good folks at Need to Know, thank you very much for the good muckraking journalism on this and the food story. Please keep up the work by looking further under the rug at the BLM, and you will find plenty more muck to report on regarding corporate grazing on the public dime.

  • Earthquake31

    What about the           warrior/king mentality? No mention of that at all. For the uninformed it means that before civilizations man was able to subdue the horse and climb up on top of that horse and look down on other men. Then he would gather as much property, homes, women and horses as a warrior that he could gather. Then he resided on the horse as a king. Same superstructure still exists in the human mind today. Romans 13   1-7 is a scam. God did not create governments which issues permits to run the equine into the ground. The fires of Hell are cold and dark. Setting an ambush for your soul is not a wise thing to do. Animals are other nations, fellow participants and prisoners on this speck of dust in aeons and aeons of space.

                                             Coyotes eat the meat but leave the bones for God                                                                                         

  • Sonnyboys

    Thank you for this wonderful documentary.  Anyone who has had the unique opportunity to see the wild horses instinctively understands their significance to our lives.  One can only hope that our politicians and government will do the right thing to preserve our American Mustang for the future.

  • pinyon-bird

    This Tuesday, August 30, 2011 is the final deadline set by the BLM for the public to submit comments on a new proposal to catch and remove even more wild horses from Cloud’s range in the Pryor Mountains in the near future. E-mails are not being accepted – only letters sent via mail and faxes. For more information, go to http://www.thecloudfoundation.org to view the BLM’s “Scoping Notice” to find out how you can help protect both Cloud’s herd and other remaining wild horses and burros in the U.S.A,

  • Tami

    Horses are native species.   Do your research!

  • Tschebull

    It’s OK to be romantic about feral/wild horses, but facts are important. These horses were “introduced” by the Spanish, were on the prairie only by about 1650. There’s nothing natural about them. Yes, there were horses here during the Pleistocene – camels, sloths, monster cats and mammoths, too, but they were all wiped out by human intervention. Horses are tough on habitat that should be supporting native species, like elk and antelope, also mule deer.

  • Tschebull

    It’s OK to be romantic about feral/wild horses, but facts are important. These horses were “introduced” by the Spanish, were on the prairie only by about 1650. There’s nothing natural about them. Yes, there were horses here during the Pleistocene – camels, sloths, monster cats and mammoths, too, but they were all wiped out by human intervention. Horses are tough on habitat that should be supporting native species, like elk and antelope, also mule deer.

  • Cat Kindsfather

    You say that habitat should support elk, antelope & mule deer. Why, so you can kill them? Congress deemed that the wild horses are an integral part of the landscape, wherever they are found, and that they do enrich the American spirit.  I agree. I love viewing wildlife in nature.  Let me remind you of this, that only the Native American is indigenous to America. Wild horses belong wild & free, and Congress mandated protections for them & the burros, long ago.

    Also, the wild horse post gastric system reseeds the soil. 

  • lindenlea

    As I wrote below, it is domestic cattle and sheep whose populations dwarf both wild horses and other wild species and which pose by far the greatest threat to western range land habitats. I would also like to amend my comment; I meant to write that bighorn sheep (not pronghorn) are threatened by pneumonia spread by domestic sheep. Because horses did originally evolve in North America, they are well suited to habitats in the American West, and their ecological footprint per capita is much smaller than domestic cattle and sheep. Then multiply that by about 7 million for average numbers of livestock grazing on public lands, and it is easy to see the problem. It is also easy to see that, in comparison with the massive impact of the huge numbers of domestic livestock grazing on public lands, the impact of 20,000 or so wild horses is de minimus.

  • lindenlea

    As I wrote below, it is domestic cattle and sheep whose populations dwarf both wild horses and other wild species and which pose by far the greatest threat to western range land habitats. I would also like to amend my comment; I meant to write that bighorn sheep (not pronghorn) are threatened by pneumonia spread by domestic sheep. Because horses did originally evolve in North America, they are well suited to habitats in the American West, and their ecological footprint per capita is much smaller than domestic cattle and sheep. Then multiply that by about 7 million for average numbers of livestock grazing on public lands, and it is easy to see the problem. It is also easy to see that, in comparison with the massive impact of the huge numbers of domestic livestock grazing on public lands, the impact of 20,000 or so wild horses is de minimus.

  • Mattedwards50

    and don’t forget RANCHERS PAY NOTHING OR ALMOST NOTHING TO GRAZE THEIR LIVESTOCK ON MY [TAXPAYERS] LAND !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Equilibrium1

    Yeah, what Tschebull said. Look, I’m no fan of cattle and don’t eat meat for exactly that reason. However, this was a story about wild horses that had no balance about why a majority of biologists and ecologists think that horse populations are too large and why the resulting effects on native flora and fauna are bad. I thought Need to Know held itself to higher journalistic standards. To the guy below with all the scripture, wild horses are neat look at, but I’m confidant that God does not love them more than indigenous species like pronghorn, elk, and mule deer (although He probably did kinda punk the mule deer by making their ears so big).

  • http://www.facebook.com/LeeAnne151 LeeAnne Deardorff Goen

    There are more than TEN MILLION cows and sheep on our public lands and only 20-30,000 horses. Do the math. It is ridiculous to blame the horses for habitat destruction.
    There are millions of deer and elk as well. Deer are over populated almost everywhere in the USA due to over a hundred years of killing predators also on the public dime. Our cities are full of deer and they cost millions in agricultural losses as well. Deer are just fine. There is no reason to remove horses and warehouse them for any wildlife.
    Millions are still spent annually by the US government on killing predators in the West to protect the almighty god Cow even though less than 3% of our beef supply is produced on the range.

    Horses evolved in North America. Some migrated to Asia via the Bering Sea land bridge the same way people migrated here. Horse bones with human tool marks have been found that pre-date the Spanish in both Canada and the US. Horses were an important source of food and may have been eaten to extinction by early humans but that doesn’t change the fact that they are native here.

    If tigers are wiped out in Siberia the next decade should people a hundred years from now refuse to protect introduced populations because they were at one point extinct???

  • Earthquake31

    What is the difference between a horse and a mule?

    When a horse comes up to the wall he will always find a way around it, a mule always sits down.

  • Earthquake31

    Most people know 50 square miles around them and everything they see on T.V.

    Turn off Motzart and turn on C-SPAN. You too can be like them.

  • Anonymous

    < < There's nothing natural about them.>>  False.  Horses – up to and including “true” or “modern” horses – evolved in North America and spread to the rest of the world via the Bering Land Bridge.  DNA evidence confirms their existence here as recently as about 8,000 years ago. 

    What this means is that horses, which evolved here over 60 million years *WITH THE ENVIRONMENT* (this is important to plant defense and dispersal mechanisms) were absent – at most – for 8,0000 years.  Significantly shorter, percentage-wise, than a human vacation (surely when you leave home for a trip, things are still the same upon your return… You still fit in, and know how to use your resources.  Same for the horse).

    Humans impact ecosystems and species in both positive and negative ways, but you can’t pick and choose, accepting one without the other.  So, IF humans are responsible for the loss of horses through over-hunting, and this is considered natural or ok, AND humans are also responsible for giving horses a boat ride back to their natural environment, THEN this is also natural and ok.

    Horses are a reintroduced native species.

  • Anonymous

    < < horse populations are too large and why the resulting effects on native flora and fauna are bad.>>  Horses are native species which evolved WITH native flora and fauna.  Plant defense and dispersal mechanisms are based on this, as is the grazing pattern of horses (randomly, eating off trails, over a large distance, instead of wiping out an entire area as livestock do).  Horses spread seeds, undigested, in their manure, fertilize the ground, and in the winter clear trails through the snow and break ice at water sources so smaller animals can traverse and drink.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AY6XJAGQSF6WAOESHOMIYPKBJE redmoonpmv

    GAAH! It still boils down to Mankind setting themselves up as The Shepherd. Other predators have been killed off, and nature is not kind anyway; She controls by letting all of us outbreed our resources and then big die off. The Shepherds do not allow this; they tools they use are limiting breeding and harvesting. There is NO such thing as “The Wild” cuase every inch of earth is claimed by some faction of Mankind as their pasture. Ergo– Shepherds do what Shepheards gotta do.

  • Pat Coffman

    Well that sounds a little bit like what I heard from a Senator from Wyoming had said in hearings on the Senate floor,about how the horses hoofs are destroying the habitat by not being split like the antelope or elk..and oh yes the all American Cow!That the plant life does not regrow after being tramped on…it has nothing to do with over population and them starving,it merely has to do with their exsistence on any range!Of course the cattle do not destroy land by overgrazing..and lord knows the Methane gases they release is okay for the air!Or maybe next time you take a hike or walk be sure to wear your split shoes!!Outrageous thinking on your part and down right scary,:-[ These horses were not brought in by Spanish..they were here before that and are more American than you..have a heart and maybe some compassion for the Wild and free Horses of The United States of America!

  • Pat Coffman

    You are absolutely correct..I live in the Nevada and California’s borders and all I see is cattle in areas where “How in the Hell can they thrive..but after all they have no Borders like the horse”s do.So I think it is the cattle destroying what little plant life there is out there!People can not trust what they are being told but go see for yourselfs!They have signs up also to make it seem as though they have beautiful Wild Horses and Burros out in their natural habits for all to enjoy!Well good luck finding them..you will only see “Cattle and more cattle!!

  • Gonsaul
  • http://twitter.com/HoofHugs Christie Finn

    And you have taken a scientific pole of X number of scientists, i. e., biologists and ecologists who have actually studied animal science, I guess.  All of your scientists have a minimum of a B. S.

  • http://twitter.com/HoofHugs Christie Finn

    http://www.pnas.org/content/106/52/22352.full  If you can find Table 1 in this link, you will see that the DNA found in the Alaskan permafrost is identified as that as Equus caballus, the modern horse.  Equus cabaluus evolved here in North American and traveled to South America, Asia, and Europe across land bridges that existed thousands of years ago, including the Thune Bridge which led from North America across Iceland, Greenland, a series of islands all the way to England.  Equus caballus is also the same species brought here by the Spanish.  Enough of this feral, non-native stuff.  It just reveals a lack of education which is readily available in our libraries and on the Internet.

  • http://twitter.com/HoofHugs Christie Finn

    There are several wild horse herds in North Carolina including the wild horses of Corolla, the Shackleford Island Horses, the Carrot Island horses, and possibly another.  Then there are wild horses on Cumberland Island in Georgia as well as on Asateague Island near the Maryland and Virginia border.  I think there are other herds as well.  Remember Chincoteague and Misty?

  • http://twitter.com/HoofHugs Christie Finn

    Thank you for this wonderful video.  Not only are the horses beautiful, but their habitat is an exquisite example of nature’s handiwork. 

  • Earthquake31

    Horses could care less about what you use them for. You talk as if they like being yoked into slavery. Helped us build this country? Do you think they recognize countries and borders? You are the idiot. All we are is pests to horses. Like the cop that says that his dog is his partner and how much he cares for the dog. Ha! The dog is nothing but a pigeon to draw fire. When you put your dog through a first floor window to search a suspects house the first thing to happen is the dog will be shot. You point a gun at that dog and he will keep coming at you. The dog doesnt know he is about to be shot. Its a dumb animal. You are the idiot pest on the back of a horse.

  • Ccdowner

    Fantastic interview and story. Way to go Ginger in standing up to expose the lies and maliciousness of our government officials toward the wild horses and their freedom and to extoll the latter, which is truly life renewing. Craig C. Downer, Wildlife Ecologist. PS. These animals are native to North America and restore the ecosystem in so many biomes.

  • Jim from Nevada

    This slanted piece about so-called “wild” horses fails to even mention that the horses currently roaming the American West are not either native or “wild.” They are introduced, disease-bearing, weed-spreading feral pests that pollute water, compete with native wildlife for forage, and left unchecked would over-populate their ranks at the expense of myriad native animals & plants. The romanticized portrayal of these destructive half-ton invaders misses even the most basic fact: The West’s free-roaming horses are not “wild” animals at all. They are introduced feral pests.

  • Audreyglen1

    How dare you say this!!!! Wild horses have been here on this earth longer than WE have! Humans are the ones spreading this ‘disease’ by this kind of attitude! YOU are the disease to the human race! People who have this ‘believe’ are ignorant and are missing the point entirely! Imagine if some ‘other beings’ came and ’rounded You & your family up and put you in ‘jail’ for no other reason but to separate you from your family and not reproduce. Not to mention taking away your entire way of life!!!!! No compassion, just selfish hate! Shame on you.

  • Audreyglen1

    Ginger, God has truely blessed you; Thank you for doing what you are doing; your love of these horses is the spirit of these majestic animals! How I wish I lived out there to be part of all of this. I would dedicate my life to helping these beautiful animals !!! You are an inspiration to all animal lovers, especially, ‘the little girls who love horses, grew up & never had the opportunity to follow thier dreams of being around them’! I’d like to think that if I had that opportunity, we wouldve been great allies in this cause! ……..                 AVID HORSE LOVER FROM THE EAST COAST!!!!!!

  • Carol in Colorado

    Great story Alison, but you did neglect to cover some basic, important points.  Probably the most abundant herds of wild horses are in Nevada (hence the comment above from Jim referring to them as “feral pests”) and they compete with cattle, which produce income and food.  Deer, elk, etc also can be harvested for food.  Horses are looked at by many like Jim as providing no value.

    Second, here in Colorado in the Bookcliffs of NW Colorado, the BLM has been managing growth with hormone shots.  A shot can keep a mare from being bred for 1 or 2 years.  I believe they are developing, or have developed, a 3 yr shot.  This has helped over population of herds, but not without some problems such as they still come into heat monthly and their stallions attempt to breed them monthly.  Bachelor stallions also attempt to steal and breed these mares.  

    Lastly, you should have covered the holding areas in Canon City, CO where the prisoners work to get them ready for sale in the wild horse program.  They are way overpopulated in these areas and this has been exacerbated by the bad economy.  If I had the land and money to adopt some mustangs I’d be happy to. This is a real problem if the roundups continue.

    What Ginger has done is bring this issue to the table.  Now you need to cover the facts.  This was a bit of a fluff piece, which I don’t expect from you or PBS.

  • Pureheart1

    Your an ass. You have never a a loyal animal protect your life with his own. I feel bad for you, a cold mean spirited, angry and not loved person. You are the dumb animal open your heart and shut your mouth you may just find a real life to bitch about. Tell our troops their k9 partners are dumb animals. Our police our seeing eye dogs,  horses are probably more loyal to their handlers than you are to the prople around you. Jesus can help you with your hatred. watch the video of what they do to these horses, it is in humane.

  • Deborah Frazier

    Thank you, Ginger. You’re not just a voice for our wild horses but their song.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christine.peniaranda Christine Peniaranda

    we always believed our mustangs were feral and their ancestors were brought here by the spanish. but recent science has proven the horse was on this continent over 2000 years ago. complete skeletons were found, so the native american indian legend is true: the horse has been here ‘forever’. since our mustangs roamed in the millions just a hundred years ago, how is it the land was not destroyed by them? they are an important piece of the natural balance. you are misinformed and ungrateful as to the horses strength allowing us to tame the land and build this nation.how soon some forget. OUR ancestors could not have survived without their horses and YOU wound not have been born.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christine.peniaranda Christine Peniaranda

    when there is a ration on fuel are you going to ride your trusty elk to get around? hahhhaahahhaha!!! i’ll be on my horse when our gov’t rations fuel for the military and trust me-i wonn’t give you a ride.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christine.peniaranda Christine Peniaranda

    thank you christie!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/christine.peniaranda Christine Peniaranda

    what does that scripture have to do with our wild horses? blm is a corrupt authority. if you want to quote scripture how about proverbs 12:10  The righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christine.peniaranda Christine Peniaranda

    i don’t believe there is a predator strong enough to kill a grown wild stallion. they can run from a bear. their only predator is mankind-BLM

  • http://www.facebook.com/christine.peniaranda Christine Peniaranda

    it’s too bad the horse allowed our ancestors to survive and produce people like you

  • Anonymous

    “…the primary cause of the degradation in rangeland resources is poorly managed domestic (primarily cattle and sheep) livestock.”

    ”Unlike cattle who tend to congregate and settle in riparian areas, wild horses and burros are highly mobile, typically visiting watering areas for only short periods of time. To make matters worse, livestock are concentrated in grazing allotments at artificially high densities during the critical growing season when vegetation is extremely vulnerable to permanent damage. This overgrazing sets the stage for habitat degradation that may not be immediately apparent, but can cumulatively cause massive vegetation dieoff.”  (U.S. GAO Report)

    —-

    “Wild state” is defined (by the Dept. of Agriculture – 9 CFR 1.1) as:

    “Wild animal means any animal which is now or historically has been found in the wild, or in the wild state, within the boundaries of the United States, its territories, or possessions.”

    “Wild state means living in its original, natural condition; not domesticated.”

    (Horses, of course, evolved in North America, so this is indeed their “original, natural condition.”)

  • Anonymous

    2011 Nevada populations: Mule Deer – 109,000 (up 10% from 2010) Rocky Mtn Elk – 13,500 (up 10%) Pronghorn – 27,000 (up 4%) Desert Bighorn – 7600 (up 3%) California Bighorn – 2100 (up 11%) Rocky Mountain Bighorn – 230 (down 21%) Mountain Goat – 301 (down 9%)

    TOTAL:159,761

    Wild horses – 17,710 (up 0.01%) Burros – 1347 (down 13%)

    TOTAL: 19,057.

    GRAND TOTAL ALL ANIMALS: 178,818.

    Horses are 10.66% of the total wild animal population, an insignificant fraction of the grazing livestock population, and consume only a minimal amount of available forage.

  • Anonymous

    2011 Nevada populations: Mule Deer – 109,000 (up 10% from 2010) Rocky Mtn Elk – 13,500 (up 10%) Pronghorn – 27,000 (up 4%) Desert Bighorn – 7600 (up 3%) California Bighorn – 2100 (up 11%) Rocky Mountain Bighorn – 230 (down 21%) Mountain Goat – 301 (down 9%)

    TOTAL:159,761

    Wild horses – 17,710 (up 0.01%) Burros – 1347 (down 13%)

    TOTAL: 19,057.

    GRAND TOTAL ALL ANIMALS: 178,818.

    Horses are 10.66% of the total wild animal population, an insignificant fraction of the grazing livestock population, and consume only a minimal amount of available forage.

  • Joebowd

    Horses originated in North America and spread to other areas so to say that they don’t belong here is ridiculous.  They are certainly more native than people are.  The primary reason why they were being removed is because they were competing with cattle for food and the cattle had a stronger lobbyist.  Of course it’s political isn’t everything?  They should be released to once again roam with the rest of the wild creatures that they originated with like elk and bison.

  • Chrisvpena

    the field where i kept my horses stayed green and beautiful, since i moved them a year ago there isn’t anything  but star thistle there now. horses help the land stay healthy.

  • Shezalongtallsally

    blm continues to torment our so-called “Federally Protected Wild Horses”. cruelty at its worst. Americans need to speak up and demand Blm be overhauled and the torment Stopped! this nation would NOT exist but for the horses in our history.