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Mustangs Spirit of the Shrinking West

Animals  (tags: protection, extinction, animalwelfare, wild mustangs )

- 3394 days ago -
The February issue of National Geographic Magazine has an article, by Alexandra Fuller, about the government's round up of Mustangs on behalf of cattle ranchers, headed, "Spirit of the Shrinking West: Mustangs."

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Dusty K (1339)
Sunday February 8, 2009, 3:04 am

The article quotes Jay Kirkpatrick, director of science and conservation biology at ZooMontana, in Billings, a center for the development of contraceptives for wildlife. He says, "Wild horses are right in the middle of a culture that wants nothing to do with them." And he says that "the wild horse has been despised ever since white men came westóblamed for everything that can and does go wrong on these grasslands. So in the mid-1800s, when stockmen released up to 40 million cattle on the plains, where horses had lived for centuries without destroying the grazing, at most two million mustangs were held responsible for the suddenly depleted range."

The article explains, "Traditionally ranchers haven't had much time for anything that competes with them for resources. It's not uncommon to find coyote carcasses draped over barbed-wire fences, as if Westerners had gone trolling for whatever offended their souls and, unable to shoot the wind, turned their ire on something more tangible. "

Fuller explains that the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, is required to manage its 258 million acres for "multiple use." She writes, "In theory there should be enough room for everything, but in reality, from the moment pioneers settled here, resources have been extracted with little patience for anything that got in the way of a silver dollar."

The BLM is caught in the struggle between mustang advocates and cattle ranchers. Fuller writes,
"Under the 1971 act the BLM must keep the herds at what it decides are appropriate management levels (AMLs). Some horse advocates believe the AMLs are arbitrarily low, threatening the genetic viability of the herds; ranchers say they're unrealistically high, threatening vital grazing."

The article includes distressing descriptions, as well as the photos, of helicopter chases during mustang round-ups. Chris Heyde of the Animal Welfare Institute says, "Every year they pull more and more horses off the range to keep the ranchers happy. Meantime the scenario for the horses is just awful."

Though it is not supposed to happen, we are reminded that many of the mustangs, the symbol of the Great American West, end up in slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico.

We are told by Fuller that Kirkpatrick, noted above as working on wildlife contraception, "said contraception offers a humane alternative to rounding up the animals, but that the BLM is resistant." We read, "He said the agency is spending too little studying fertility control and too much on helicopter roundups. When he suggested to a BLM official that the agency inject the mares with the wildlife contraceptive vaccine porcine zona pellucida (PZP), he recalled being told, 'That's not how we do it out here. We do it with horses and ropes.'"

And helicopters.

You'll find the full article, including the photos, on line at

Please check it out. Magazine publishers count web clicks.

It is great to see this issue covered in National Geographic Magazine, which has a circulation of over six million, and which goes to people who generally care about the Earth and animals.
Please send a supportive letter to the editor to

Elaine R (130)
Sunday February 8, 2009, 3:18 am
This is an AWFUL SHAME what's happening to mustangs they are being made Extinct by white man for cattle! Forests are disappearing for cattle!!!
You animal eaters are DESTROYING natural habitats STOP wanting to fill your FACES (FACT)

Dana F (130)
Sunday February 8, 2009, 3:21 am
These wild horses are beautiful. Unfortunately they are being domesticated and that is a shame. As I always say "greed and vanity".

Ester Hellen (228)
Sunday February 8, 2009, 3:32 am
It is all about greed,the buffalo has no place,now the mustangs.....we are loosing the beauty

Linda H (199)
Sunday February 8, 2009, 10:13 am
The wild horses are so very beautiful. It is terrible what is happening and must stop.Thanks,Dusty.

Marty H (119)
Tuesday February 10, 2009, 12:33 am
Excellent article Dusty! Unfortunately the horses are not the only animals that suffer under the big cattle cartels! So does the last wild herd of Buffalo here! Thanks and noted!

Vijay Tankha (28)
Tuesday February 10, 2009, 5:15 am
This is too sad to even contemplate! The Mustang is very much a part of the Anerican Heritage. I notice that in many countries, heritage counts for nothing in the face of so called progress. One of Anerica's prestigeous car makers thought the name Mustang was iconic enough to name one of its cars. What will be left, if you kill off the natives of the land, the native animals and then destroy the natural vegetation as well. Kudos for all those making an effort to save the country, so many only want destruction.

pauline d (8)
Tuesday February 10, 2009, 8:12 am
buffalow wild horses wolves /cyotes bears jezz whats america so proud about?

Haudeno Saunee (19)
Wednesday February 11, 2009, 2:07 am
It seems to me that the real shrinking is of the minds of those wretched cattlemen and their confederates at the BLM!
This reminds me of LBJ's (aka president KBR) wacked out plan (no joke folks) to terraform the entire western landscape, i.e., bulldoze and dynamite every "damn" mountain range, all the national forests, any arboreal forests that are left, and create one vast residential zone from sea to `shining' sea (((UGH)))
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