National Academy of Sciences to study wild-horse roundups


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A National Academy of Sciences panel is set to hear official presentations and public comment to begin its independent review of the federal Wild Horse and Burro Management Program. The first meeting is scheduled for Oct. 27 in Reno.

The Bureau of Land Management last week announced a tentative calendar for its wild-horse and burro roundups.


The roundups are to begin this month and continue through next March in California and several Western states. The BLM is expected to gather about 6,000 animals via helicopter herding. Some of the horses are to be removed from the range; others -- about 2,000 horses -- are to receive a fertility-control vaccine.

The controversial program has drawn criticism from animal-welfare advocates as being unnecessary and harmful to the horses and foals. In response, the BLM has allowed the public to observe the roundups.

The Reno meeting is to include presentations from BLM officials and wild-horse experts. Among issues the panel is expected to study are horse and burro genetics and the scientific basis for population models.

The BLM estimates that about 33,000 wild horses and 5,500 burros roam BLM-managed range lands in 10 Western states, based on data from February of this year. Wild horses and burros have virtually no natural predators, and their herd sizes can double about every four years.

Public-lands ranchers complain that the animals compete with livestock for scarce food in the arid West.



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-- Julie Cart