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Questions and Answers: Rangeland and Herd Management

Why does the BLM manage wild horses and burros on public rangelands?

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, as amended, declares all wild free-roaming horses and burros on the public rangelands to be under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Interior, through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the Secretary of Agriculture, through the U.S. Forest Service. 

How are wild horses and burros managed on public rangelands?

The BLM manages wild horses and burros on public rangelands in a manner consistent with its overall multiple-use mission, which takes into account all natural resources and authorized uses of the public lands. As mandated by the 1971 law, the BLM protects, manages, and controls wild horses and burros to ensure that healthy herds thrive on healthy rangelands. Through land-use planning efforts that involve public participation, the BLM determines the appropriate number of wild horses and burros that each Herd Management Area can support. Planning efforts include an inventory and the monitoring of all uses of the public rangelands.

The 1971 Act, as amended, prohibits anyone other than an authorized agent of the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from removing wild horses or burros from the public lands. Private citizens may not harass or remove wild horses and burros from the public rangelands.

Where are wild horses and burros found?

Wild horses and burros are found in 179 Herd Management Areas in 10 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.

How are wild horses and burros removed from public rangelands when an overpopulation exists?

Normally, the BLM gathers (rounds up) wild horses and burros from the range using helicopters. Researchers have found this method to be the most humane and the least stressful for the animals. The BLM does not rope animals unless it is absolutely necessary. Depending on the number of animals that the BLM must remove, gather operations can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks.

What happens to the animals once they are gathered from public rangelands?

Once gathered, BLM wild horse and burro specialists load the wild horses and burros onto trucks for transportation to a holding area at the gather site or to a local BLM facility. At the holding area, the animals' age (estimated by looking at their teeth) and sex is determined. Specialists separate the animals into different holding pens depending on their age and sex. All mares with foals at their side are placed in a separate pen. If a mare is lactating and has no foal at her side, the Bureau makes every effort to reunite the mare with her foal.

After separating the animals, the BLM determines which ones will be sent to a preparation facility for adoption by the general public and which will be sent to long-term pastures in the Midwest.


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