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Wild Horse and Burro Quick Facts

Contact: Tom Gorey, BLM Public Affairs (202-912-7420)

Updated as of August 4, 2015

The Bureau of Land Management manages, protects, and controls wild horses and burros under the authority of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (as amended by Congress in 1976, 1978, 1996, and 2004). This law authorizes the BLM to remove excess wild horses and burros from the range to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands. The BLM also manages the nation’s public lands for multiple uses, in accordance with the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act. The Bureau manages wild horses and burros as part of this multiple-use mandate.

Below are key statistics related to the Wild Horse and Burro Program. More complete information, including historical figures, can be found on the data page. In addition, information on how the Bureau estimates the on-range wild horse and burro population on BLM-managed lands can be found on the Rangeland and Herd Management and Science and Research pages.

Wild Horse and Burro Population Estimates

On-range Population Estimate as of March 1, 2015

As required under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, the BLM conducts an annual population inventory to estimate the number of wild horses and burros roaming BLM-managed lands in the West. (Click here to learn more about how the Bureau estimates the wild horse and burro population.) To promote healthy conditions on the range, the BLM determines what it calls the Appropriate Management Level (AML), which is the number of wild horses and burros that can exist in balance with other public land resources and uses. Wild horses and burros that exceed AML (which is 26,715) are to be removed from the range, in accordance with the 1971 law, as amended. The current estimated on-range wild horse and burro population (as of March 1, 2015) is 58,150, an 18 percent increase over the 2014 estimate of 49,209. That means the current West-wide on-range population exceeds AML by 31,435. As noted in a table further below, the population of off-range (unadopted or unsold) wild horses and burros maintained in holding facilities is nearly 47,500, as of July 2015. 

State

Horses

Burros

Total

Max. AML

Arizona

303

4,860

5,163

1,676

California

4,395

2,946

7,341

2,200

Colorado

1,415

0

1,415

812

Idaho

633

0

633

617

Montana

172

0

172

120

Nevada

27,599

2,611

30,210

12,811

New Mexico

175

0

175

83

Oregon

4,327

49

4,376

2,715

Utah

4,550

355

4,905

1,956

Wyoming

3,760

0

3,760

3,725

Total

47,329

10,821

58,150

26,715

Population Growth-Suppression Treatments

In a June 2013 report, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) found that no highly effective, easily delivered, and affordable fertility-control methods were currently available to manage wild horse and burro population growth; the NAS also urged the BLM to use better research tools. The currently available fertility control vaccine, known as porcine zona pellucida (PZP), is limited in the duration of its effectiveness – up to 22 months for a formulation that must be hand-injected into a wild horse. A second formulation of PZP can be deployed via ground-darting, but is effective for only up to one year. This formulation is not a viable fertility-control option for most wild horse herds because of (1) the animals’ propensity to avoid human contact and (2) the vast sizes of herd ranges, which make it difficult to locate and track individual horses. Learn more here about the BLM's fertility control efforts for wild horses and burros.

 

PZP

PZP-22

Total

Fiscal Year 2014

319

65

384

FY 2013

199

310

509

FY 2012

162

883

1,045


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Video Clip:  Below is a two-minute video from June 2012 of the BLM's second annual tour of a pasture holding facility in El Dorado, Kansas. To view a larger version of this video, select this link.


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Wild Horse and Burro Acreage

In 1971, when Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, these animals were found roaming across 53.8 million acres of public land, known as Herd Areas, of which 42.4 million acres were under the BLM’s jurisdiction. Today, the BLM manages wild horses in subsets of these Herd Areas, known as Herd Management Areas (HMAs), that comprise 31.6 million acres.  (For an explanation of "What happened to the 22.2 million acres?," see the response to Myth #4 on the Myths and Facts page.) Under the 1971 Act, horses and burros may not be re-located to other public lands where they were not found roaming when the law was passed.

Total Number of Herd Management Areas (HMAs)

179

Total Acreage of HMAs

31.6 million acres

HMA Acreage Managed by BLM

26.9 million acres

  

Wild Horse and Burro Population in BLM's Off-Range Corrals and Pastures

All off-range (unadopted or unsold) wild horses and burros, like those roaming Western public rangelands, are protected by the BLM under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, as amended. These off-range horses and burros are fed and cared for in either short-term corrals or long-term pastures at a cost of more than $43 million a year. The BLM maintains a monthly holding facilities report, which can be found by clicking on the desired fiscal year: FY-2015, FY-2014, FY-2013, FY-2012, and FY-2011. The total capacity of all BLM off-range holding facilities is 50,929 animals.

(As of July 2015)

Horses

Burros

Total

Off-Range Corrals

14,932

793

15,725

Off-Range Pastures

30,324

0

30,324

Eco-sanctuaries

443

0

443

Total Off-Range Population

45,699

793

46,492

Wild Horse and Burro Removals

Wild horses and burros have virtually no natural predators and their herd sizes can double about every four years. As a result, the BLM removes thousands of animals from the range each year as part of its efforts to control herd sizes.

 

Horses

Burros

Total

Removals in Fiscal Year 2014

1,689

168

1,857

Removals in FY 2013

4,064

112

4,176

Removals in FY 2012

7,242

1,013

8,255

Wild Horse and Burro Adoptions into Private Care

The BLM offers wild horses and burros that were removed from the range for adoption into private care. Since 1971, the BLM has adopted out more than 230,000 wild horses and burros nationwide. Potential adopters can attend an offsite adoption event, visit a BLM adoption facility, or participate in an Internet Adoption event. For general questions on adopting a wild horse or burro, visit the Frequently Asked Questions page.  

 

Horses

Burros

Total

Animals Adopted in Fiscal Year 2014

1,789

346

2,135

Animals Adopted in FY 2013

2,033

278

2,311

Animals Adopted in FY 2012

2,232

351

2,583

Wild Horse and Burro Sales into Private Care

About 8,400 wild horses and burros immediately became eligible for sale under the December 2004 sale-authority law (the so-called "Burns Amendment"), which directs the BLM to sell "without limitation" to any willing buyers animals that are either more than 10 years old or have been passed over for adoption at least three times. Since 2005, the BLM has sold more than 5,800 horses and burros. It has been and remains the policy of the BLM, despite the unrestricted sales authority of the Burns Amendment, not to sell or send any wild horses or burros to slaughterhouses or to "kill buyers."

 

Horses

Burros

Total

Animals Sold in Fiscal Year 2014

23

64

 87

Animals Sold in FY 2013

22

43

 65

Animals Sold in FY 2012

320

82

 402

Wild Horse and Burro Program Budget

 

FY2014

FY2013

FY2012

 

Dollars (in millions)

% Budget

Dollars

% Budget

Dollars

% Budget

Appropriations

$77.245

 

 $71.836

 

 $74.888

 
Total Expenditures

$67.9

 

$76.1

 

$72.4

 
Off-Range Holding Costs

$43.235

63%

$46.165

61%

$42.955

59%

Gathers and Removals

$1.2

2%

$4.8

6%

$7.8

11%

Adoptions

$4.6

7%

$7.5

10%

$7.1

 10%

Other Activities (monitoring, etc.)

$18.865

27%

$17.035

22%

$14.545

 20%