Wild Stallion Awaits Grim Future Languishing In Pen
He was once wild and free, a proud stallion, living for decades on the range in Utah's Sulphur Spring Herd Management Area. Now the 25-year old mustang - the equivalent of 80 in human years - is confined to a barren and bleak holding pen, yet another victim of US Bureau of Land Management's (BLM's) helicopter roundup program.
Wild horses still range free on public lands in ten western states. There, they live in tightly-knit social bands that consist primarily of a stallion, his mares and their offspring. Like other wild horses, the Sulphur Stallion would fight to the death to protect his family and their freedom. But he was no match for the BLM's helicopters, which descended on his high desert home in February. The stallion bravely faced off against them, even escaping once before being run and captured again. In the end, he and his family were driven into trap pens, where they were forcibly separated ... never to see each other again.
The Sulphur Stallion is the face of thousands of wild horses who, each year, are rounded up and removed from their homes on the range. The BLM's helicopter stampedes traumatize, injure and sometimes kill these animals, shatter their closely-knit families and forever rob them of their freedom.
Some horses and burros that survive the roundups are adopted or sold for as little as $10 a piece, with untold numbers entering the slaughter pipeline. The vast majority are warehoused for life in government holding facilities where nearly 50,000 wild horses and burros are stockpiled - more than remain free on the range!
Taxpayers fund this program to the tune of $80 million annually. But, what does it say about us as a nation, when our government uses our tax dollars to violently destroy an animal that represents the freedom and untamed beauty that makes America great?
It was not supposed to be this way. In 1971, Congress unanimously declared wild horses and burros as "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West" to be "protected from capture, branding, harassment and death." But the law passed to protect these national icons has been turned on its head by the BLM, which has systematically eliminated nearly half the originally designated mustang habitat - only to allow commercial interests to dominate those lands. The biggest threat to wild horses and burros remains the livestock industry, which views these animals as competition for cheap, taxpayer subsidized grazing on our public lands.
Today, we face a choice: continue to spend millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars so helicopters can terrorize wild horses into pens and confine them for life, or we can manage wild horses in the wild using a humane, effective and cheaper birth control vaccine, as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.
As we wait for change, the Sulphur Stallion, Grulla Stallion #3907 to the BLM, languishes in his holding pen, awaiting an Apr. 21 Internet auction, when he will be sold for a starting bid of just $25.
Unlike the BLM, we know that no dollar value can be placed on this elder stallion's life, his wisdom, his courage, his experience of 25 years living wild and free. We believe that instead of auctioning off this magnificent stallion like a piece of furniture, the BLM should release him with other captured horses back to his home on the range. It's also high time the BLM establish a firm policy for Keeping Wild Horses Wild by humanely managing them on the range.
**UPDATE: May 15, 2015**
Over the last few weeks, national attention focused on the plight of a 25-year old wild grulla stallion, known as #3097, who was captured by the BLM from his home range in the Sulphur HMA. The Internet Auction ended on May 5, and a private breeder in Washington State outbid sanctuaries to purchase #3907. Sanctuaries were, however, able to rescue other senior Sulphur stallions. Return to Freedom (RTF) stepped in and placed the winning bids on a 20 year-old and 15 year-old stallion. Three other elder stallions from the auction will soon call Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary (BHWHS) home as well. Both sanctuaries are in need of donations to be able to provide care to these new rescues. Please donate to RTF here, and BHWHS here.