A coalition of animal rights groups is suing the federal government after wildlife officials proposed removing the ovaries of about 100 wild mares in a trial program to manage overpopulated herds.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for managing 82,000 wild horses and burros living on about 27 million acres of federal land. The land area can support just 27,000 horses and burros sustainably, E&E News reports.
Agency officials were set to begin a pilot program in Oregon this fall. Veterinarians would remove 104 mares’ ovaries, and the BLM would test the feasibility of using the treatment manage overpopulated herds.
The Cloud Foundation, American Wild Horse Campaign and Animal Welfare Institute sued the Department of the Interior over the plan because it did not study the “social acceptability” of the surgery and has “seriously limiting public access to observe and document,” the lawsuit states.
The process and lack of transparency violates the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, the groups allege.
The BLM has tested and engaged in a number of strategies attempting to gain control of the overpopulated animals’ birthrates. Agency personnel shoot darts of contraceptives at wild horses and burros to prevent pregnancies, and an adoption program settles healthy animals with owners who promise to care for them. The agency houses another 46,000 animals in holding corrals that cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year to care for.
The process of restoring wild horse and burro populations to sustainable levels will take decades without euthanasia, BLM officials say.
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