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Last updated: 06/15/11

Updated as of February 21, 2007

on the BLM’s Management of Wild Horses and Burros

Sale Authority

About 8,400 wild horses and burros became eligible for sale under the December 2004 sale-authority law, which directs the BLM to sell animals that are either more than 10 years old or have been passed over for adoption at least three times. As of February 2007, the Bureau has sold more than 2,200 horses and burros. The BLM does not sell 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.

Wild Horse and Burro Population

The BLM estimates that about 31,000 wild horses and burros are roaming on BLM-managed rangelands in 10 Western states, based on the latest data available (compiled as of February 28, 2006). 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 some 3,500 the number that the BLM has determined can exist in balance with other public rangeland resources and uses. The appropriate management level is approximately 27,500.

Off the range, there are more than 29,000 other wild horses and burros that are fed and cared for at short-term (corral) and long-term (pasture) holding facilities. 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 Fiscal Year 2006, the BLM spent $36.8 million on its wild horse and burro program. The cost for holding wild horses and burros in short- and long-term facilities was $19.6 million, meaning holding costs accounted for more than half of what the BLM spent in FY 2006 on its total wild horse and burro program.

Removing Wild Horses and Burros from the Range and Placing Animals in Adoption

To ensure that herd sizes are in balance with other public rangeland resources and uses, the BLM removed 9,926 wild horses and burros from the range in FY 2006 (which ended September 30, 2006). Of the animals removed during that year and in previous years, the agency placed 5,172 into private care through adoption in FY 2006. Since 1973, the BLM has placed more than 214,000 horses and burros into private care through adoption. (For more information on the BLM’s adoption program, see

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, 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.

Law Enforcement

In enforcing the 1971 Act, the BLM continues to work with law-enforcement authorities in the investigation and prosecution of those who violate this landmark law. The text of the law can be accessed at

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