Contacts: Tom Gorey, BLM Public Affairs (202-912-7420) Jason Lutterman, Public Affairs, WH&B Program (775-861-6614)
Updated as of Nov. 24, 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 thrive 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 more than 47,000 as of November 2015.
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 up to only 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.
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.
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)
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 $49 million a year. The BLM maintains a monthly holding facilities report, which can be found by clicking on the desired fiscal year: FY-2016, FY-2015, FY-2014,FY-2013, FY-2012, and FY-2011. The total capacity of all BLM off-range holding facilities is 54,549 animals.
(As of November 2015)
Total Off-Range Population
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.
Removals in Fiscal Year 2014
Removals in FY 2013
Removals in FY 2012
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.
Animals Adopted in Fiscal Year 2014
Animals Adopted in FY 2013
Animals Adopted in FY 2012
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."