To help support the ongoing state-of-the-art fertility control program for McCullough Peaks wild horses, Friends of a Legacy received a $5,000 grant from the Equine Welfare program at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
FOAL, an advocacy group for the mustangs that roam free east of Cody, is a nonprofit organization that works cooperatively with the Cody Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management. To enable successful completion of the 2018 darting season, the grant was used to purchase porcine zona pellucida from the Science and Conservation Center in Billings and equipment for administering the PZP vaccine from Pneudart.
As a result, BLM staff and trained volunteers were able to administer PZP to 62 mares in 2018, including seven young mares that were started on the program.
“We’re really appreciative of the ASPCA’s support. PZP is a low-cost, non-lethal tool for controlling population growth in free-ranging species, in this case wild horses,” said Marion Morrison, FOAL executive director. “Without it, FOAL’s assistance to the fertility control program would not have been possible and the reduction in foaling rates and improved habitat for all creatures would not have been realized.”
The BLM has administered the fertility-control program for the McCullough herd since 2004. The BLM and FOAL began collaborating under a memorandum of understanding in 2005. In 2011, FOAL and BLM pooled resources for the cost and administration of the annual program using the PZP immunocontraceptive. The program has lowered birth rates in the herd management area and the reduced population has benefitted habitat for the wild horses, wildlife and domestic cattle that share the public land.
Further, lower numbers lessen the need for gathers, a practice that can be traumatic for horses, FOAL says.
In the McCullough Peaks HMA, fertility control rates have improved. First, the number of newborn foals in the HMA dropped from 47 in 2009 to 10 in 2018, a 78 percent decrease.
Second, horse removal numbers plummeted over treatment years; in 2004, 362 horses were removed, and in 2013, 20 horses were removed. Lower removal numbers result in fewer horses being kept in long-term holding facilities, a great cost to both the horses’ quality of life and the taxpayers’ pocketbook.
In addition, the horse population has been stable since 2004, even with lowered removal numbers.
“This program allows an icon of the West to maintain a sustainable population and enrich the western experience for residents of the Big Horn Basin and tourists alike while protecting the health of public lands,” Morrison said.