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Endangered Mustangs Story
The first Mustangs were descended from Iberian horses brought to Mexico and Florida in the 16th century by the Spanish Conquistadors. Most of these horses were of Andalusian, Arabian and Barb ancestry. Some escaped and spread throughout western North America. Others were captured by the Native Americans. The piebald or painted horse, known as the Choctaw, had a dark patch covering his ears and mane and often on his chest. This was known as their War bonnet and shield. They became part of the Plains Indians folk-lore and an emblem of the American West. The finest was reserved for the Chief.
They once numbered in the millions and it is now estimated that there are fewer than 35,000 in the wild and at risk of being entirely eliminated from the vast expanse of state controlled prairie. The ranchers have over 245 million acres on which to graze their millions of cattle and the frackers covert even more of the land. Then there are poachers, those who catch game on land that it is not their own, for profit, presumably for the food chain. Presumably the BLM are complicit in this. It is a finite resource that will not last.
The authorities are acutely aware of the issues, and in 1971 introduced an Act, The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with two crucial objectives. 1: Only agents of the BLM were licensed to gather in the wild horses. 2: The killing of them was a federal crime. However this well intended law allowed the BLM to pursue an aggressive policy of round-ups and confined them away from their natural habitat. The Mustang can survive in very harsh conditions, from extreme heat to sub-zero temperatures. When free, they travel vast distances for grazing and can live in good health off the barest of land.
The 'Living Images site is by Equine Photographer: Carol Walker
More recently the Authorities passed another law supposedly to protect them, called the ‘Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act’ (WFHBA) designating land for them. The result, there are more horses in the government holding facilities that in the wild. However this brings its own problem: it costs taxpayers an enormous $60 million per annum. It is generally agreed that this solution is expensive and ineffective and it is known that on occasions they are corralled with the use of helicopters, killed and buried in large pits or incinerated. This is a horrible exercise. Those that survive are often separated from their family units, suffer strain and stress by the unnaturally long and harsh journeys imposed by man, and many die on the route of dehydration and malnutrition. The BLM justify their policies on the basis of research of an areas ecological carrying capacity.
Some argue that the Mustang is not native to America and is only a pest, best eliminated. Five centuries is a long time; just think of the world if every animal and human had to return to their place of origin; and the arguments establishing where exactly that was!
Sustainable Mustang Management.
‘Return to Freedom‘ Is a wild horse sanctuary working to establish and promote more sustainable herd management strategies. Not only is maintaining family bands and the natural behaviours of wild horses important to the sanctuary, but so too is providing a haven for unique strains of mustangs. The Mustang and other unique strains of horse have a safe haven at Return to Freedom, where they would otherwise face the prospect of being "zeroed out" or utterly eliminated from ranges, and from the face of the earth. Return to Freedom offers a refuge for rescued mustangs but this is not its primary purpose. Beyond being a home, the sanctuary works to be a model for better management practices that it wants to see the BLM adopt, and that includes fertility control. Putting a real effort behind fertility control strategies would be more cost-effective for the BLM and tax payers who fund BLM's management of wild horses, and of course they would be less traumatic and invasive for wild horses themselves.