A Veterinarian's View

Dr. Al Kane is a veterinarian with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, Veterinary Services, but he spends much of his time working with wild horse and burro safety, health and welfare for the BLM. Dr. Kane is one of dozens of veterinarians that advise and guide the care and handling for the wild horses and burros that leave the range and come into BLM’s direct care. These veterinarians provide support at gathers and inspect the health of animals in corral facilities and off-range pastures.

With over 45,000 animals living in off-range corrals and pastures, these doctors spend a lot of time in the open air. “These animals are a good example of how animals can thrive on western rangelands,” said Dr. Kane, “Caring for them sometimes presents unique challenges, but BLM staff work hard to make their lives on the range and if necessary, their transition into the domestic world as smooth as possible.

Physiologically, these animals are the same as domestic horses and burros, but they are not just unhandled horses and burros. They are truly wild animals and this just makes the practices the BLM has put in place over the years that much more important to help protect the animal’s health and well-being. For example, unlike horses raised in fenced pastures and corrals, wild horses unaccustomed to panels and gates will attempt to push through them during sorting unless a visual barrier is added to the rails. Tarps and snow fencing attached to gates and panels help reduce the number of injuries that would occur otherwise.”  

Dr. Al Kane examining horse