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Bureau of Land Management tests new way to control herd size of Utah’s Onaqui wild horses 

March 22nd, 2015 Posted in Opinion

By Jillian McCarthy
Saving Wild Horses

The Salt Lake Bureau of Land Management will be trying a new process for controlling the herd size of Utah’s Onaqui wild horses. Starting in April, the BLM will be using darts to shoot mares with a chemical that will stop the mares’ fertility. The chemical’s effects will last a year and do not cause permanent infertility.

Tami Howell, Salt Lake BLM wild horse and burro wrangler, said there are 19 wild horse herds in Utah and the Onaqui horses are the first herd that the BLM is going to use darting fertility control on.

In the past the BLM has rounded up and sold the Onaqui wild horses to control herd size. The roundups separate the stallions from the mares and the mares from their foals. 

“Every three to four years the BLM goes and rounds up the Onaqui horses to reduce their numbers and then lets them increase until the next roundup,” said Suzanne Roy, the director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. “These roundups are terribly traumatic to these horses because they lose their freedom and their families.” 

The BLM keeps the Onaqui herd between 121 and 210 horses. 

“The Onaqui horses are given a section of land, when the herd gets too big it will start taking over other resources and will have a negative impact,” Howell said. 

Once the Onaqui horse population exceeds 210 the BLM will round up some of the horses and take them to holding facilities. 

“The horses are herded by helicopter into traps and then sent to holding facilities,” Roy said. “From these holding facilities some get adopted, some are sold as little as $25 and then the rest are sent to another holding facility called Delta where horses are crammed in pens together until they are sold or adopted.”

Roy said that by using fertility control the horses will be able to stay on the range longer and there will be fewer roundups, which will lead to less trauma on the horses. 

More information on the Onaqui wild horses can be found at http://www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/salt_lake/wild_horses___burros/onaqui_mountains_hma.html.

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