Myths & Facts About the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program


Myth: Wild Horses are overrunning and ruining the range.
Fact: Wild horses are present on just 17% of BLM rangelands, where they remain vastly outnumbered by livestock.

Wild horses are not present on more than 80% of rangelands, which makes the claim that that they are overrunning the range preposterous. Moreover, according to the BLM, less than one-quarter of available forage within Herd Management Areas (HMAs) is allocated to wild horses. More than 75% is allocated to livestock. (1.1 million AUMs for livestock; 320,000 AUMs for wild horses and burros.). The vast majority of rangeland and forage is reserved for livestock not wild horses.

BLM Grazing in States with Wild Horses


BLM Acres Grazed by Livestock

BLM Acres Wild Horse and Burro HMAs

% of BLM rangelands occupied by wild horses & burros


11.5 million 1.5 million 13


7 million 2 million 28


7.8 million 365,000 5


11.5 million 383,000 .03


8.2 million* 27,094 .003


43 million 14 million 33

New Mexico

13 million 24,500 .001


14 million 2.7 million 19


22 million 2.1 million 10


17.4 million 3.6 million 21

*includes Dakotas


Myth: Wild Horse populations are 3x over the number the land can sustain.
Fact: The BLM's claims of overpopulation are not based on science, but are arbitrary numbers unsupported by science and contrary to the unanimously adopted law designed to save the "fast disappearing" wild horse population levels.

  • By setting a national AML of just 16,300 – 27,000, the BLM seeks to drive the wild horse population back to the number (25,000) that existed in 1971, when Congress determined these iconic animals were "fast disappearing and acted unanimously to save them.

  • The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) found in 2013:

"How Appropriate Management Levels (AMLs) are established, monitored, and adjusted is not transparent to stakeholders, supported by scientific information, or amenable to adaptation with new information and environmental and social change."

"The committee could not identify a science-based rationale used by BLM to allocate forage and habitat resources to various uses within the constraints of protecting rangeland health and listed species and given the multiple-use mandate."

This is part of an established pattern at BLM of ignoring science, the will of the American people and Congress. In 1990, for example, GAO found that "despite congressional direction, BLM'S decisions on how many wild horses to remove from federal rangelands have not been based on direct evidence that existing wild populations exceed what the range can support."


Myth: The only solution is slaughter.
Fact: Slaughter is strongly opposed by the American public, but win-win solutions are available.

Polls show that 80% of Americans (including 90% of women) oppose horse slaughter, and nearly 3 in 4 Americans support protecting wild horses on our public lands. The public outrage that surrounded the BLM's illegal sale of nearly 1,800 federally-protected wild horses to a known kill buyer who sold them to slaughter and the overwhelming public outcry over the U.S. Forest Service plans to remove the Salt River wild horses from the Tonto National Forest in Arizona are testimony to the strength of public opposition to the destruction of wild horses [move up to previous page, if possible].

Win-win solutions are available, but are not being implemented. These include:

  • Using the proven PZP fertility control vaccine to reduce population growth rates.

  • Creating public-private partnerships to implement humane management programs.

  • Adjusting the artificially low and unscientific AMLs to accommodate current population levels and allow for the preservation of wild horses and burros in genetically viable herds.

  • Developing mechanisms to compensate ranchers for reduced use or non-use of public grazing allotments in HMAs. Compensating ranchers will be far cheaper than continuing to roundup, remove and stockpile wild horses in holding facilities.

  • Reducing the population of horses in holding by transferring them to zeroed out Herd Areas or other public lands areas where they can earn their own keep. These horses are non-reproducing, so will phase out over time and thus will not create additional management challenges.


Myth: PZP doesn't work.
Fact: It works if it's used.

Currently the BLM spends less than 1 percent of its budget on proven humane fertility control, while spending at least 72 percent to roundup, remove and stockpile horses.

PZP is used today to successfully manage 20 wild horse populations in the U.S. and has achieved zero population growth in many of them. Despite this, the agency continues to fail to use it on a scale that will make a difference, and has actually reduced the use of PZP since 2011.

The NAS confirmed this in its 2013 report, which states, "Tools already exist for BLM to address many challenges." The primary took available immediately is the PZP vaccine, which the NAS confirmed that the BLM is using on too small a scale to make a difference.


Myth: BLM must conduct large-scale wild horse removals but cannot do so because holding facilities are full.
Fact: Removals are creating the very problem BLM seeks to solve.

The NAS found:

"[BLM's] management practices are facilitating high rates of population growth.… population growth rate could be increased by removals through compensatory population growth from decreased competition for forage. As a result, the number of animals processed through holding facilities is probably increased by management."

"Removals are likely to keep the population at a size that maximizes population growth rate, which in turn maximizes the number of animals that must be removed through holding facilities."


Myth: Wild horses are a feral, invasive, non-native species.
Fact: Wild horses are a native reintroduced species.

Wild horses evolved on this continent, and their disappearance less than 10,000 years ago is a mere blip on the evolutionary scale of time. They migrated across the land bridge to Asia, where they thrived, were domesticated and reintroduced to the Americas by the Spanish in the 1500's. The fact that the horses that were re-introduced came from domestic stock is scientifically irrelevant. "Feral" describes a species relationship to humans; it has no biological significance.

As the noted paleontologist Dr. Ross MacPhee of the American Natural History Museum in New York has stated, "Evidence from both quaternary mammalian paleontology and ancient DNA studies is overwhelmingly in favor of horses being regarded as a native North American species."

Photo above by Jim Schnepel of Wild Horses of America Foundation