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Re: [RC] Wild Horses Letter in NY Times..on the mark - RDCARRIE

In a message dated 12/3/2004 12:59:29 PM Central Standard Time, Vistalargo@xxxxxxx writes:

MUSTANGS which are not feral horses.

It's been well documented that horses as a species were extinct in N. America until European man and people from Mexico arrived.  The various Indian tribes were in total awe of these "invaders" mounted on horses...because they had not seen horses before.  It was not until some of these imported horses became established in the wild (through escape, deliberate release, etc.) that the "mustang" herds came into existence.  The term mustang is simply the name given to these horses.  The term "feral" simply refers to animals that are NOT native wild animals, but animals that are living a wild existence due to escape, deliberate release, etc.  Calling these horses "feral" is not meant to be derogatory or imply that they are all farmer Joe's old plow horse who was turned loose...it is simply being accurate.  If they are NOT feral (or the decendents of feral horses), then that implies that they were an original part of the native fauna...which is not true.  There were NO horses in North America at the time people other than Native Americans arrived in the western U.S.  Yes, the ones roaming the ranges now *are* wild...but that does not mean that they are a native species.

And Heidi is exactly right in that these horses can do tremendous resource damage if left unchecked.  I'm originally from Oregon, and have seen the damage to natural plant communities, impacts to the soil, etc. that large numbers of feral horses, or mustangs, can inflict. 

Do I want them all gone from the ranges?  Not necessarily.  As a wildlife biologist, I abhor over population of *any* species caused by man's interference or lack of it.  Elk numbers are out of control in Rocky Mountain National Park due to complete protection - the next time you're there, notice the browse lines on the vegetation, the stunting and damage to willows, and the total lack of young aspen saplings to replace the older trees that are dying.  Yep, due to too danged many elk.  Personally, I think they need to be reduced, but that's against the rules in at National Park.  As for the horses, if the choice is solely between remove every last one of them from the range, or do absolutely nothing and let them go unchecked, I would choose the former, out of concern for the health of the ecosystem that they inhabit.

But fortunately for the horses, there is a middle ground available - control of numbers by man.  The BLM has tried for years to adopt as many of them out as possible.  If there are not homes for as many as need to be removed, then something else must be done.  I, for one, don't want my tax dollars spent on housing thousands of horses in holding pens until they die of old age.  Do I like the idea of slaughter?  No, it's not very appealing.  But until someone can come up with a better idea, that is about all that can be done.  I would prefer to see these unadopted horses sent to slaughter than languish for 20 years in small holding pens.

Dawn in East Texas