Wild Horse Roundup Controversy Could Cost the BLM $2 Million


Mustang horseEvery year, thousands of wild horses and burros across the western rangelands are rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Some are sold to adoptive homes, but many remain in long-term holding ranches in the Midwest where they live out their days. The purpose of these roundups is to control the size of the Mustang herds to prevent overgrazing, spread of disease, and other problems that come with overpopulation.

The wild horse program has picked up many critics during its years of operation. Some say the roundups are cruel, unnecessary, and done for the benefit of special interests such as cattle ranchers or oil companies. Others point to the program as an example of wasteful spending and question why the government is paying to care for the tens of thousands of formerly-wild horses that don’t get adopted.

On Wednesday, February 16, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment that would cut the BLM’s budget by $2 million. The wild horse program currently has a budget of $64 million. About half of that amount goes to housing the equines kept in long-term holding.

“It is just a drop in the bucket when you are talking about the overall cost problem we are facing,” said the amendment’s co-sponsor, Rep. Dan Burton, R-IN. “But it is one I hope will send a very strong message to the BLM to treat these Mustangs in a humane way.”

“Instead of capturing wild horses and holding them in pens for life, BLM already should have fully implemented a less-costly, preventative and more humane option: That of controlling herd size through contraception,” said Rep. James Moran, D-VA, a supporter of the amendment.

One vocal opponent of the amendment is Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-WY. “It is Congress that has caused the problems by saying we cannot slaughter horses, yet we are not supposed to keep them in pens,” she stated. “We are supposed to allow them to overgraze the West.”

While the BLM is not prohibited by law from culling the herds as a management option, director Bob Abbey has stated that the Bureau will not slaughter or euthanize healthy Mustangs and burros.

Abbey has acknowledged that the management program needs changes to make it financially viable while still carrying out the duty of keeping the wild horse numbers at a healthy level. Fertility control, expanded adoption programs and housing Mustangs on privately-owned lands are among the solutions under consideration by the Bureau.

The BLM has not issued a response to the proposed budget cut.


  1. I want to know why the BLM has to use helicopters, which scare the horses to death…why can’t they use horses, or even ATVs, which would be much less stressful

  2. More of these horses would be adopted if it was viable for people further away to adopt. If there were trailering incentives like there are with PMU farms or ‘rescue trains’ of people willing to make short legs of trailering and offering free or cheap stop overs then more people out east would be able to become part of the adoption. I live in Canada about as far east as you can get and trust me, if it wouldn’t cost me thousands, and I mean thousands to bring a mustang from there to here, I would own one.

  3. I’d like to see morse adoptions on the east coast. They need to make the horses more visible, they could put pictures up on their website of the adoptable horses. Contraceptives are a good idea, so long as they do them at the right time of year. They messed up the first time and a few mares that did get pregnant had out of season foals that wound up dead because of the harsh winter weather.
    I’d also like to see more male horses castrated, there aren’t as many mares as there are stallions and this would help a small bit. Round ups need to be made safer if they continue, I’ve watched many round ups and they are stressful and cruel. Check out the cloud foundations website and take a look for yourself. We as humans have a responsibility to look after wild animals as we move into their lands, look at wolves, mustangs, cougars and many other animals they need our help.

  4. I have two of these horses and they make the greatest horses you have ever seen, they are fantastic, but only if you love them, they know the difference.You can pick they horses up over the internet adoption on the blm web site and they will bring them very close to you at no charge, I picked mine up about 120 miles from my house.

  5. There is a lack of true justice for the wild horses and burros on the part of our public servants (supposed) in the BLM and USFS, the two agencies charged with protecting, preserving and managing the wild horses and burros in the wild. They have forgotten about the “in the wild” part. If they would adopt a program of in the field Reserve Design whereby the horses and burros are allowed to fill their natural niche as returned native equids, with natural barriers and predators, buffer zones and the positive support of our public servants, self stabilizing herds would result and the ecosystem would be greatly enhanced by their presence. But all the opposite is happening as the wild horses and burros continue to be tortured. What a shame and a disgrace to America. All this must be changed. They represent all that is good and decent about America.

  6. Cutting the budget may be a wakeup call but I hope it doesn’t hurt the already capture and penned Mustangs and Burros. I do not want to hear any excuses from the BLM for not taking care of the thousands of Mustangs already captured, under a ridiculous program that has no future. Proper management of the land is to decrease the amount of cattle, grazing almost for free, by ranchers. The land wasn’t purchased, with my dollar, to support their herds nor them. Proper water availability, unfenced, should also be stepped up.
    Taking advantage of the Mustang private facilities that are being offered would not only be a financial relief but also relief to the Mustangs and Burros that use the ranges NEXT to them, without the horrific roundup methods that the BLM is insistant on using. The small price for these private facilities would be more readily accepted, than the millions the BLM are now using and don’t work. Contraception is another answer, when done correctly.
    Slaughter is not the answer. Just because something is in the way for some individuals does not mean they need to be elimiated in any way, shape or form. Horses are not considered a diet of the American people, others may do so, that is their option and they have enough ‘unwanted’ horses of their own to take care of their appetites.

  7. EXACTLY Pat. Add to that the fact that, when you think of it, the slaughterhouses don’t WANT the old, the sick, the ‘crazy’ horses. They want fat, healthy, sane horses, NOT the ‘unwanted’ ones that everyone says they provide an end for. Also, there’s the issue of horses being given so many drugs throughout their lives that are not safe to give to animals intended for consumption (Bute, dewormers etc.) I think that’s a public health risk, don’t you?
    Plus the lie that horses have ‘no natural predators’. Sure, and neither do moose, elk, caribou, etc.

  8. Just out of curiosity, has anyone here gone to the BLM’s website? Or emailed them to ask them questions?
    Because they state that they don’t sell horses to slaughter houses. And while I don’t like the fact they round up horses with helicopters necessarily, the facts they laid down are pretty good. And the BLM’s job is exactly like fish and game, to preserve the land for multiple uses. The only difference is that they don’t sell tags to shoot horses. And if BLM didn’t manage the herds some how, then yes nature would take it’s course and manage it for us…..by the rapid declines and inclines. And yes there are cougars and occasionally wolves and bears that prey on horses. But just like with everything else, humans are causing it so there just isn’t enough predators out there to take care of the herds themselves. And no, I’m not someone who is stubborn enough not to get both sides of the story, I did my oral presentation for my 4-H horse club on the Mustang Controversy, and I emailed and asked both BLM and top wild horse groups there opinions, as well as facts and statistics to back there opinions up.

  9. Unfortunately, the horses are fat and healthy. Also many are sold to slaughter houses heading for Mexico and Canada. They only pay $10.00 a head. I think the horses should be handled by horse people not the government. And why can’t we just spread seed and make more food since land is plentiful.

  10. I have also done thorough research in this area to remain as unbiased as possible and see both sides of the story unfortunately as far as I’ve come to see the BLM has done just about everything they could do wrong they BLM has had repeated dealings with contracters who have on numerouse occassions sold horses to slaughter. While when they planned to get rid of a herd of wild horses in a little town in Nevada the residents were all in an uproar and all went to the meeting the BLM has in which they said everyones questions would be answered when in fact they weren’t they asked them to write down their questions and put them in a little box and that they would get back to them
    the BLM might not be doing the harm personally but if they associate and hire people who they know are being cruel and doing illegal things like selling wild horses to be killed they are responsible
    if you want the facts go to wildhorsepreservation.org


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here