Bureau of Land Management Votes to Kill 45,000 Horses and Burros

Update 9/15: After widespread outcry in the wake of its mass euthanasia announcement, the Bureau of Land Management changed its tune and announced that it would continue caring for the equids in its holding facilities. The victory is short-lived, however: The Humane Society of the United States noted in a press release that the agency failed to announce any long-term plans for addressing the unsustainable state of the Horse and Burro Program. Animal advocates need to continue pressuring the agency to encourage them to explore safe and effective fertility to control on the range. 

Wild horses and burros are an iconic symbol of the American West, and the sound of thundering hooves across the prairie is intensely evocative.

The Bureau of Land Management is tasked with looking after the 26,000 free roaming and nearly 45,000 captive wild horses in the United States. Appallingly, the agency has just announced that it wants to kill all of its captive horses.

The BLM cites an inability to continue providing for the horses in captivity and claims that it cannot rehome them quickly enough.

This is an equine tragedy, made all the more frustrating by the BLM’s failure to use commonsense approaches for herd management — a strategy that could have prevented this breaking point. Now, animal rights groups are scrambling to protect these innocent victims of bad policy.

Why is the BLM involved with captive wild horses, anyway? Isn’t the whole point that mustangs are supposed to roam freely across the Western landscape?

Well, not exactly.

As it turns out, this introduced species isn’t popular with ranchers, who pressure the BLM to keep wild horse numbers down so they don’t compete with cattle for forage. Farmers leasing public lands for grazing feel entitled to it, and they argue that population control benefits the welfare of horses and cattle alike — after all, too much competition can destroy grazing supplies.

Fewer wild horses can also be better for the environment. Overgrazed ground is subject to erosion in heavy storms, which can damage neighboring waterways.

The question of whether ranchers, the general public or wild horses — some of which are descended from centuries of free-roaming equine bloodlines — should have precedent has long been at issue in the West. The Malheur Wildlife Refuge occupation, in fact, centered on that very debate.

Horses, however, don’t have the benefit of an armed encampment to defend their right to graze, so the BLM periodically rounds up and captures wild horses and burros to maintain what it calls an “Appropriate Management Level.” The population number is calculated on the basis of land uses and resources.

Theoretically, those horses and burros are supposed to go up for adoption, and the agency routinely holds online and off-site adoption events to rehome captive horses — some of which are sold for slaughter, despite what the agency claims.

The problem is that the number of animals in captivity keeps growing, and the agency cannot successfully find homes for them quickly enough — even with volunteer programs that train horses and burros to make them more appealing to prospective adopters.

The agency spends nearly half of its horse and burro budget maintaining off-range horses and facilities, and it claims that “euthanasia” is necessary to rebalance the program.

The Humane Society of the United States feels differently, arguing that it has been pushing the BLM to consider fertility control measures.

The agency itself admits that, left untended, wild horse and burro populations double about every four years. Even if the BLM keeps taking animals off the range, they’re going to continue breeding. Think of it like rounding up stray cats, while leaving others untouched. The process allows feral cats to keep breeding and bringing population numbers back up. It’s necessary to remove the capacity for reproduction from the equation for the population growth to slow.

Fertility control programs could bring the reproduction rate down, keep range populations more stable and give the BLM an opportunity to adopt out the horses it has in captivity.

The BLM has not announced the specifics of its proposed mass slaughter, making it critical to speak out before it’s too late. These wild horses and burros are a living symbol of American history and their only crime is being the victims of bad policy and husbandry decisions.

Had the BLM taken a more responsible stance on keeping populations under control decades ago, we wouldn’t be at this horrific impasse.

You can sign this petition to the BLM Leadership urging them not to honor the Advisory Board’s vote to destroy these beautiful horses. 

Photo credit: Bureau of Land Management


Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago


Wendi M.
Wendi M2 years ago

Unless it makes a greedy SOB it needs to be eliminated

Joanne p.
Joanne p2 years ago


Sherri S.
Sherri S2 years ago

These damn ranchers want to kill anything that stands in their way! It sickens me that our government cares more about them than protecting wildlife. Let's keep the pressure on and then maybe birth control measures can be put into place.

Deborah S.
Deborab S2 years ago

I hope birth control is the answer.

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

All happening to have a piece of meat in your plate!!! Consumers, ranchers and the meat industry are killing this planet!!!

Kalliope M.
Past Member 2 years ago

In my opinion it is needless and gruesome to kill the mustangs - America should remember, that is wouldn't have had the chance to become the country it is now without all the Horses and Burros which were used in the past to move through the country and to work on the fields. For this they owe it to these animals to let them roam free in peace!

Marie W.
Marie W2 years ago

BLM owned and operated by ranchers/hunters.

Mari 's
Mari 's2 years ago

RE: Petition... URGENT: BLM ADVISORY BOARD VOTES TO SLAUGHTER 44,000 BEAUTIFUL CAPTURED WILD HORSES IN HOLDING. ---- Which brought me to this Article here again o.O The Advisory Board already said NO to killing these horses. People really NEED to start paying attention.

Mari 's
Mari 's2 years ago

Dear S.E. Smith and readers,

Mari 's (1356)
Sunday October 2, 2016, 12:14 pm
Here is the BLM Wild Horses and Burros History and Facts...

From the Public

This Wild Horse and Burro Webpage is intended to answer questions that are on the public’s mind, based on e-mails and phone calls that the BLM has recently received at its National Wild Horse and Burro Information Center (wildhorse@blm.gov or 1-866-468-7826).

What is the BLM's response to the recommendation made by the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board on September 9, 2016, to sell without limitation or humanely euthanize excess horses and burros in BLM's off-range corrals and pastures that are deemed "unadoptable"?

Answer: The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board is an independent panel comprised of members of the public that make recommendations to the Bureau of Land Management regarding its management of wild horses and burros. The BLM is committed to having healthy horses on healthy rangelands. We will continue to care for and seek good homes for animals that have been removed from the range. The BLM does not and will not euthanize healthy animals. The agency continues to seek new and better tools for managing the nation's quickly expanding population of wild horses. There are nearly 70,000 wild horses and burros on public lands in the West -- three times the recommended level -- and nearly 50,000 additional horses and burros that have been removed from the rang