Wild Horse and Burro Quick Facts
Contact: Tom Gorey, BLM Public Affairs (202-912-7420)
Updated as of June 8, 2011
Wild Horse and Burro Population
The Bureau of Land Management estimates that approximately 38,500 wild horses and burros (about 33,000 horses and 5,500 burros) are roaming on BLM-managed rangelands in 10 Western states based on the latest data available, compiled as of February 28, 2011. Wild horses and burros have virtually no natural predators and their herd sizes can double about every four years. As a result, the agency must remove thousands of animals from the range each year to control herd sizes.
The estimated current free-roaming population exceeds by nearly 12,000 the number that the BLM has determined can exist in balance with other public rangeland resources and uses. The appropriate management level is approximately 26,600.
Off the range, there are more than 41,000 other wild horses and burros that are fed and cared for at short-term corrals and long-term pastures. (As of May 2011, there were approximately 11,850 in corrals and 29,150 in Midwestern pastures.) All wild horses and burros in holding, like those roaming the public rangelands, are protected by the BLM under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.
Wild Horse and Burro Budget
In the most recently completed fiscal year (2010), holding costs accounted for $36.9 million out of a total wild horse and burro budget of $63.9 million (plus an additional $2.1 million in 2009 "carryover" funding).
Removing Wild Horses and Burros from the Range and Placing Animals in Adoption
To help ensure that herd sizes are in balance with other public rangeland resources and uses, the BLM removed 10,255 wild horses and burros (9,715 horses and 540 burros) from the range in Fiscal Year 2010. The Bureau placed 3,074 removed animals into private care through adoption in FY 2010 -- down from 5,701 in FY 2005. Since 1971, the BLM has adopted out more than 225,000 horses and burros. For more information about adoptions, please visit How to Adopt and the national adoption schedule.
With regard to a call by advocacy groups for a moratorium on all BLM gathers of herds, this is untenable given the fact that herds grow at an average rate of 20 percent a year and can double in size every four years. The ecosystems of public rangelands are not able to withstand the impacts from overpopulated herds, which include soil erosion, sedimentation of streams, and damage to wildlife habitat. As for the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, Section 1333 of that law mandates that once the Interior Secretary "determines...on the basis of all information currently available to him, that an overpopulation exists on a given area of the public lands and that action is necessary to remove excess animals, he shall immediately remove excess animals from the range so as to achieve appropriate management levels."
About 8,400 wild horses and burros immediately became eligible for sale under the December 2004 sale-authority law, which directs the BLM to sell "without limitation" animals that are either more than 10 years old or have been passed over for adoption at least three times. Since 2005, the Bureau has sold more than 4,700 horses and burros. The BLM has not been selling any wild horses or burros to slaughterhouses or to "killer buyers."
The proceeds from the sale of the eligible animals are used for the BLM’s wild horse and burro adoption program, as directed by Congress under the sale-authority law.
BLM’s Legal Mandates
The BLM 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.
The BLM 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.