Federal land managers, struggling to keep wild horse populations in check on Western rangelands, hope contraception will serve as an alternative to the costly and ultimately ineffective practice of warehousing horses for life on private pastures.
Horse advocates generally support fertility control, but they say a new research proposal targeting a Utah herd for castration goes too far.
The Bureau of Land Management wants to explore what happens when most of a herd’s adult males are gelded and is now reviewing a proposed five-year study that would be conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and Colorado State University. Researchers would neuter wild stallions in the Conger Herd Management Area 70 miles west of Delta.
Critics say returning neutered males to the range is inhumane and a violation of federal law protecting free-roaming wild horses; a castrated horse no longer behaves like a wild horse and could get sick and lazy, or even die from the procedure. Nor will this research generate useful findings, according to Deniz Bolbol of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.