New study shows fertility control as viable alternative for wild horse management

New study shows fertility control as viable alternative for wild horse management

Published: May. 16, 2024 at 7:12 PM PDT


RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - After five years of research, a new report shows that fertility control is a feasible alternative to feral horse management.

In April of 2019 the American Wild Horse Conservation began testing the effects of fertility control on horses as an alternative to the roundups currently being used by the Bureau of Land Management.

“They are using a method that many of us think is inhumane and cruel to be chasing the horses with helicopters, rounding them up, and tearing them from the range,” said Tracy Wilson, the Nevada State Director at the American Wild Horse Conservation.

Wilson adds the round ups then lead to a bigger issue.

The study, led by Dr. Martin Shulman, a veterinary specialist in equine reproduction and expert on non-lethal methods for the management of wildlife, evaluated data from AWHC’s fertility control program on free-roaming horses in Nevada’s Virginia Range. What they found is the vaccine actually slowed population growth.

“We had a 66% reduction in foaling rates, and we had covered about 72.5% of the mares with vaccines at that time,” said Wilson.

The horses get a primary and a booster the first year, and a booster for each year after that. Keeping track of all these mares takes an incredible amount of work.

“We have a database and we’ve photo documented every horse on the range. So, every record has photos that show both sides of the face, feet, and special markings like scars. We divide the range up into heard treatment areas, so we know what horses reside in what areas. If they move that gets changed in the database,” Wilson explains.

The program in the Virginia Range is all run by volunteers to be able to allow the horses to live out their lives in their natural habitat.

“Managing those animals on the range versus having them removed, processing them, taking them out of their environment, putting them somewhere else, and then paying for it is a much better option in our view,” said Wilson.

The Nevada Department of Agriculture has yet to review this study for themselves, but they plan to do so this year.