Editor: A recent article was published in the Elko Daily Free Press entitled “Commentary: Tale of two species on Western rangelands,” by Thomas Mitchell, an article whose allegations were that wild horse and burro population was roughly 40,000 to 50,000, at present, and would be expected to grow to 69,000 in one year.
As a biologist, I am here to state that there are numerous factors that govern population growth for wild horses and burros, or lack thereof. To state that 40,000 to 50,000 wild horses could increase to 69,000 horses in just a one-year period is ludicrous.
Factoring in natural mortality rates, along with all other natural variables, it would require astronomical reproductive rates to offset those variables. Such reproductive rates do not and never will occur in nature.
Additionally, using the BLM’s own population statistics, factoring in nature’s mortality, adult and first year, sex ratios, aggressive use of PZP, and subtracting gathered wild horses, their numbers remaining in the wild are in the low teens, if that. Our wild horses and burros are close to extinction!
The wild horses and burros are a vital component to ecological balance on the range lands of the West, the benefits of which are innumerable, as opposed to cattle.
The numbers of these beautiful animals must be dictated, however, by nature’s mechanisms and not mankind. Only in this manner will wild horse numbers be in balance with all other forms of wildlife and predators of the wild horses.