UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20240
 
March 12, 2009
 
In Reply Refer To:
4710 (260) P
 
EMS TRANSMISSION 03/17/2009                                                                         
Instruction Memorandum No. 2009-090
Expires: 09/30/2010
 
To:                   All Field Officials (except Alaska)
 
From:               Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning
 
Subject:           Population-Level Fertility Control Field Trials: Herd Management Area (HMA) Selection, Vaccine Application, Monitoring and Reporting Requirements
 
Program Area:  Wild Horse and Burro Program
 
Purpose: The purpose of this Instruction Memorandum is to establish guidance for population-level fertility control field research trials. The primary objective of these trials is to evaluate the effects of a single year or 22-month Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) immunocontraceptive vaccine treatment on wild horse population growth rates while expanding the use of these tools in the field.
 
Policy/Action: This policy establishes guidelines for selecting HMAs for population-level fertility control treatment, vaccine application, and post-treatment monitoring and reporting. It is the policy of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to apply fertility control as a component of all gathers unless there is a compelling management reason not to do so.
 
HMA Selection
 
Managers are directed to explore options for fertility control trials in all HMAs or complexes when they are scheduled for gathers. Further, an alternative outlining implementation of a fertility control treatment under a population-level research trial shall be analyzed in all gather plan environmental assessments (EA’s). Attachment 1 contains the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the implementation of the single-year and 22-month PZP agents, which should be referenced in the EA. 
 

Fertility control should not be used in a manner that would threaten the health of individual animals or the long-term viability of any herd.  In order to address the latter requirement, managers must evaluate the potential effects of fertility control on herd growth rates through use of the Jenkins Population Model (WinEquus).  Fertility control application should achieve a substantial treatment effect while maintaining some long-term population growth to mitigate the effects of potential environmental catastrophes. 

Fertility control will have the greatest beneficial impact where: 

  1. Annual herd growth rates are typically greater than 5%. 
  2. Post-gather herd size is estimated to be greater than 50 animals.
  3. Treatment of at least 50% of all breeding-age mares within the herd is possible using either application in conjunction with gathers or remote delivery (darting). A maximum of 90% of all mares should be treated and our goal should be to achieve as close as to this percentage as possible in order to maximize treatment effects.    
Fertility control should not be dismissed as a potential management action even if the above conditions are not met. Regardless of primary capture method (helicopter drive-trapping or bait/water trapping), managers should strive to gather horses in sufficient numbers to achieve the goals of the management action, such as selective removal and fertility control treatment. After decisions are made to apply fertility control, historical herd information, remote darting success (if employed) and post-gather herd demographic data must be reported to the National Program Office (NPO). See the Reporting Requirements section on page four.
 
Vaccine Application and Animal Identification at Gather Sites Using the 22-Month Vaccine
 
Once an HMA has been selected as a population-level field trial site, the NPO will designate a trained applicator to administer the vaccine during the scheduled gather. The applicator will be responsible for securing the necessary vaccine from the NPO, transporting all application materials and freeze-marking equipment to the gather site, administering the treatment, and filing a treatment report with the NPO. See Attachment 1 for SOP for Population-level Fertility Control Treatments.
 
All treated mares will be freeze-marked with two 3.5-inch letters on the left hip for treatment tracking purposes. The only exception to this requirement is when each treated mare can be clearly and specifically identified through photographs. The treatment letters will be assigned and provided by the NPO after the gather and fertility control application is approved by the authorized officer. A different first letter is assigned for each fiscal year starting with fiscal year 2004 and the letter “A.” The second letter of the freeze-mark is specific to the application.
 
Each BLM State Office (SO) is responsible for coordinating with the State Brand Inspector on the use of the identified two-letter freeze-mark. Based on this coordination, possible alternatives or additions to this marking policy are listed below: 
  1. Use of the adult or foal size angle-numeric BLM freezemark on the neck while recording each treatment product and date with the individual horse’s freezemark number.
  2. Registration of the BLM fertility control hip mark.
  3. Use of a registered brand furnished by the State.
  4. Use of the same hip freeze-mark for all fertility control treatments within that State’s jurisdiction plus an additional freeze-mark on the neck to differentiate between treatments within the State.
  5. Use of the NPO assigned freeze-mark plus additional freeze-mark on the neck to differentiate between treatments within the State. 
As an example, the Nevada State Brand Inspector requires that an “F” freeze-mark be applied to the left neck along with the two-letter hip mark assigned by NPO.
 
Regardless of how the mares are marked, the marks must be identified in the fertility control treatment report in order to track when the mares were treated and the treatment protocol used.
 
Mares may be considered for re-treatment during subsequent gathers. All re-treatments will consist of the multi-year vaccine unless specifically approved by the NPO. Any re-treated mares must be re-marked or clearly identifiable for future information.
 
Vaccine Application and Animal Identification Using Remote Delivery (Darting)
 
Remote delivery of the one year vaccine by a trained darter/applicator will be considered and approved only when (1) application of the current 22-month PZP agent is not feasible because a gather will not be conducted, and (2) the targeted animals can be clearly and specifically identified on an on-going basis through photographs and/or markings. No animals should be darted that cannot be clearly and positively identified later as a treated animal. To increase the success rate of the darting and to insure proper placement of the vaccine, darting should occur along travel corridors or at water sources. If necessary, bait stations using hay or salt may be utilized to draw the horses into specific areas for treatment. The applicator will maintain records containing the basic information on the color and markings of the mare darted and her photographs, darting location, and whether the used darts were recovered from the field.  See Appendix 1 for SOP for Population-Level Fertility Control Treatments.
 
Post-treatment Monitoring
 
At a minimum, the standard data collected on each treated herd will include one aerial population survey prior to any subsequent gather. This flight will generally occur 3 to 4 years after the fertility control treatment and will be conducted as a routine pre-gather inventory funded by the Field Office (FO). The flight should be timed to assure that the majority of foaling is completed, which for most herds will require that flights be scheduled after August 1st. In addition to pre-gather population data (herd size), information on past removals, sex ratio, and age structure (capture data) will be submitted to the NPO after the first post-treatment gather.
 
The following standard data will be collected during all post-treatment population surveys: 
  1. Total number of adult (yearling and older) horses observed.
  2. Total number of foals observed. 
These data are to be recorded on the Aerial Survey Report form (Attachment 4). In planning post-treatment population surveys, the new population estimation techniques being developed by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are strongly recommended. In general, however, it is not necessary that anyone try to identify treated and untreated mares and specifically which mares have foaled during aerial surveys.
 
To obtain more specific information on vaccine efficacy, some HMAs may be selected for intensive monitoring beginning the first year after treatment and ending with the first gather that follows treatment. These surveys should be completed annually within the same month for consistency of the data. Selection will be based on the proportion of treated mares in the herd, degree of success with vaccine application, degree to which HMA selection criteria are met, and opportunities for good quality data collection. This determination will be made by the WH&B Research Advisory Team and the NPO in consultation with the appropriate Field Office (FO) and State Office (SO). HMAs selected for intensive monitoring will be identified in that specific State’s Annual Work Plan. Washington Office 260 (WO260) will provide funding for the annual surveys in those HMAs selected for intensive monitoring.
 
Field Office personnel may conduct more intensive on-the-ground field monitoring of these herds as time and budget allow. These data should be limited to: 1) the annual number of marked and unmarked mares with and without foals and 2) foaling seasonality. These data, generated for FO use, should be submitted to the NPO to supplement research by the USGS.
 
Reporting Requirements
 
1) When an HMA is selected for fertility control treatment, the HMA manager will initiate and complete the appropriate sections of the Gather, Removal, and Treatment Summary Report (Attachment 2) and submit the report to the NPO. At the conclusion of the gather and treatment, the HMA manager will complete the remainder of the Gather, Removal, and Treatment Summary Report and submit it to the NPO within 30 days.  The NPO will file and maintain these reports, with a copy sent to the National WH&B Research Coordinator. 
 
2) Following treatment, the fertility control applicator will complete a PZP Application Report and PZP Application Data Sheet (Attachments 3 & 4) and submit it to the NPO that summarizes the treatment. The NPO will maintain this information and provide copies of the reports to appropriate FOs and USGS.
 
3) Managers are required to send post-treatment monitoring data (Aerial Survey Report, Attachment 5) to the NPO within 30 days of completing each aerial survey. Any additional on-the-ground monitoring data should be sent to the NPO on an annual basis by December 31st.
 
4) During the next post-treatment gather (generally 4 to 6 years after treatment), the manager will complete a new Gather, Removal, and Treatment Summary Report with pertinent information and submit the report to the NPO. Completion of this report will fulfill the requirements for monitoring and reporting for each population-level study. A possible exception would be if mares are treated (or re-treated) and the HMA is retained as a population-level study herd.
 
The USGS will analyze all standard data collected. The results of these analyses along with other research efforts will help determine the future use of PZP fertility control for management of wild horse herds by the BLM. 
 
Timeframe: This Instruction Memorandum is effective upon issuance.
 
Budget Impact: Implementation of this policy will achieve cost savings by reducing the numbers of excess animals removed from the range and minimizing the numbers of less adoptable animals removed. The costs to administer the one-year PZP agent include the labor and equipment costs for the applicator and assistant of roughly $4,000/month and the treatment cost of approximately $25 per animal. The costs to administer the 22-month PZP agent include the capture cost of about $1,000 per animal treated (under normal sex ratios it requires two horses, one stud and one mare, to be captured for each mare treated) and the PZP vaccine is approximately $250 per animal. The budgetary savings for each foal not born due to fertility control is about $500 for capture, $1,100 for adoption prep and short-term holding, $500-1,000 for adoption costs, and approximately $475 per year for long-term holding of animals removed but not adopted. For each animal that would have been maintained at long term holding for the remainder of its life after capture, the total cost savings is about $13,000. Any additional FO-level monitoring will be accomplished while conducting other routine field activities at no additional cost. 
 
Population-level studies will help to further evaluate the effectiveness of fertility control in wild horse herds. Recent research results showed that application of the current 22-month PZP contraceptive appears capable of reducing operating costs for managing wild horse populations.   Application of a 3-4 year contraceptive, when developed, tested, and available, may be capable of reducing operating costs by even more (Bartholow, 2004).
 
Background: The one-year PZP vaccine has been used with success on the Pryor Mountain and the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Ranges. The 22-month PZP vaccine has been administered to 1,808 wild horse mares in 47 HMAs since fiscal year 2004. This formulation has been shown to provide infertility potentially through the third year post-treatment as determined by a trial conducted at the Clan Alpine HMA in 1999. The intent of the ongoing population-level fertility control trials is to determine if the rate of population growth in wild horse herds can be reduced through the use of the currently available 22-month time-release PZP vaccine, applied within a 3-4 year gather and treatment cycle. Monitoring data collected over the next few years are essential to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine when applied on a broad scale as well as its potential for management use.
 
PZP is classified as an Investigational New Animal Drug and some level of monitoring will continue to be required until such time as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) either reclassify the vaccine or provide some other form of relief.
 
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected: The monitoring requirements do not change or affect any manual or handbook. 
 
Coordination: The requirements outlined in this policy have been evaluated by the National Wild Horse and Burro Research Advisory Team, coordinated with the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, and reviewed by Field Specialists.  

Contact: Questions concerning this policy should be directed to Alan Shepherd, WH&B Research Coordinator at the Wyoming State Office in Cheyenne, Wyoming at (307) 775-6097.

Reference: Bartholow, J.M. 2004. An economic analysis of alternative fertility control and associated management techniques for three BLM wild horse herdsFort Collins, CO: U.S. Geological Survey. Open-File Report 2004-1199. 33 p.

  
Signed by:                                                                  Authenticated by:
Edwin L. Roberson                                                     Robert M. Williams
Assistant Director                                                       Division of IRM Governance,WO-560
Renewable Resources and Planning
 
 
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