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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 as part of annual Public Lands Statistics reported by the BLM.  In addition, information on how the Bureau estimates the on-range wild horse and burro population on BLM-managed lands can be found here.

On-Range Population Estimate as of March 1, 2016

Wild Horse and Burro On-Range Population Estimates

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. 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, 2016) is 67,027, a 15 percent increase over the 2015 estimate of 58,150. That means the current West-wide on-range population exceeds AML by more than 40,000. (This year's 15 percent increase compares to an 18 percent increase from 2014 to 2015, which is consistent with the BLM's finding that wild horse and burro herds double in size about every four years.) 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 45,000 as of October 2016.

State Horses Burros Total Max. AML
Arizona 318 5,317 5,635 1,676
California 4,925 3,391 8,316 2,200
Colorado 1,530 0 1,530 812
Idaho 468 0 468 617
Montana 160 0 160 120
Nevada 31,979 2,552 34,531 12,811
New Mexico 171 0 171 83
Oregon 3,785 56 3,841 2,715
Utah 5,440 400 5,840 1,956
Wyoming 6,535 0 6,535 3,725
Total 55,311 11,716 67,027 26,715


Wild Horse and Burro Acreage

Land Managed for Wild Horses and Burros

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) 177
Total Acreage of HMAs 31.6 million acres
HMA Acreage Managed by BLM 26.9 million acres


Population Growth-Suppression Treatments

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 – a one-year formulation (initially assumed to be 22 months) that must be hand-injected into a captured wild horse. A second formulation of PZP can be deployed via ground-darting, but is also effective for up to only one year. This dart-deployed 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 most herd ranges, which make it difficult to locate and track individual horses. 

Fiscal Year PZP PZP-22 Gonacon Total
2016 334 118 15 467
2015 286 183   469
2014 319 65   384
2013 199 310   509
2012 162 883   1,045


Wild Horse and Burro Removals

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.  The BLM plans to remove 3,500 wild horses and burros in Fiscal Year 2016.

Fiscal Year Horses Burros Total
2015 3,093 726 3,819
2014 1,689 168 1,857
2013 4,064 112 4,176
2012 7,242 1,013 8,255


Wild Horse and Burro Adoptions into Private Care

Wild Horses and Burros Adopted into Good Homes

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 235,000 wild horses and burros nationwide. Potential adopters can attend an off-site adoption event, visit a BLM adoption center, or participate in an Internet Adoption event. For general questions on adopting a wild horse or burro, visit the Frequently Asked Questions page.  

Fiscal Year Horses Burros Total
2015 2,331 300 2,631
2014 1,789 346 2,135
2013 2,033 278 2,311
2012 2,232 351 2,583


Wild Horse and Burro Sales into Private Care

Wild Horses and Burros Sold to Good Homes

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 5,900 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." Learn more about the Sales Program

Fiscal Year Horses Burros  Total
2015 87 180 267
2014 23 64 87
2013 22 43 65
2012 320 82 402


Trained Wild Horses and Burros

Number of Wild Horses and Burros Trained

In an effort to place more animals into private care, the BLM partners with non-profit organizations, volunteers, and state and county prisons to train wild horses and burros. Trained animals tend to have a higher rate of adoption by the public than untrained.

Fiscal Year Horses Burros Total
2015 1,020 79 1,099
2014 652 108 760
2013 481 16 497
2012 656 11 667


Wild Horses and Burros under BLM Care

Populations of Wild Horses and Burros in BLM's Off-Range Facilities
(As of December 22, 2016)

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 Public Lands Stats tab below. Access the FY2017 monthly facility report here. The total capacity of all BLM off-range holding facilities is 57,334 animals. 

Facility Type Horses Burros Total
Off-Range Corrals 12,974 1,043 14,017
Off-Range Pastures 32,125 0 32,125
Eco-sanctuaries 560 0 560
Total Off-Range Population 45,659 1,043 46,702


Wild Horse and Burro Program Budget

Wild Horse and Burro Program Budget

  FY2015 FY2014 FY2013 FY2012
  Dollars (in millions) % Budget Dollars % Budget Dollars % Budget Dollars % Budget
Appropriations $77.245   $77.245   $71.836   $74.888  
Total Expenditures $75.174   $67.9   $76.1   $72.4  
Off-Range Holding Costs $49.382 65.7% $43.235 63% $46.165 61% $42.955 59%
Gathers and Removals $1.834 2.4% $1.2 2% $4.8 6% $7.8 11%
Adoptions $6.314 8.4% $4.6 7% $7.5 10% $7.1 10%
Other Activities (monitoring, etc.) $17.645 23.5% $18.865 27% $17.035 22% $14.545 20%


Public Lands Statistics and Historical Data

This table contains links to data related to on-range population of wild horses and burros, adoptions and removals by fiscal year.  Some data are preliminary and subject to revision before the end of the fiscal year. 

Historical Program Data and Public Lands Statistics

Population Completed Gathers Adoptions and Removals by State Office HAs and HMAs Data Off-Range Monthly Facility Reports
  2016   2016 2016
2015 2015 2015 2015 2015
2014 2014 2014 2014 2014
2013 2013 2013 2013 2013
1996-2012 2009-2012 1996-2012 2005-2012 2011-2012

B-Roll Footage

Wild Horses and Burros on the Range (Nevada) - 307 MB - YouTube

Wild Horses on the Range (Wyoming) - 34 MB - YouTube

Wild Horses on the Range (Nevada) - 73 MB - YouTube

Wild Horses on the Range (Utah) - 126 MB  - YouTube

Wild Horses and Burros on the Range (California) - 67 MB - YouTube

Wild Horse Gather Operation (Utah and California) - 241 MB - YouTube

Releasing Wild Horses back into HMA - 220 MB - YouTube

Wild Horses Arriving at Off-Range Pasture - 113 MB - YouTube

Wild Horses on Off-Range Pasture (Spring) - 160 MB - YouTube

Wild Horses on Off-Range Pasture (Fall) - 80 MB - YouTube

Wild Horse Inmate Training Program (Colorado) - 280 MB - YouTube


All video files in this archive are "public domain" images. You are free to use these videos without a release from the Bureau of Land Management. However, the videos must not be used to imply BLM endorsement of a product, service, organization or individual without permission from the BLM.


Credit video to the Bureau of Land Management. 


For questions or higher-quality files, please contact or 866-468-7826 .

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Points of Contact

Updated as of January 13, 2017

Tom Gorey, BLM Public Affairs, 202-912-7420

Jason Lutterman, Public Affairs WH&B Program, 775-861-6614