Grulla Horse 3907, a striking gray and tan, has sparked new debate about the government’s failure to protect America’s wild horses.
The Bureau of Land Management in February captured the horse outside the Sulphur herd management area in Utah. Then in April, in a move that caught animal activists by surprise, the government put the 25-year old horse up for sale on the Internet auction.
Minimum bid Price: $25. Safeguards to make sure he isn’t sold for slaughter? Basically none.
But the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign sprang into action and collected more than 24,000 signatures on a petition to save Grulla Stallion 3907.
The effort may have worked, though not quite as planned. Although the BLM refused to take the horse back to the range, the publicity brought out animal lovers who are trying to buy him.
As of May 5, the 25-year old stallion had been sold on the government’s Internet auction for the high bid of $1,760. According to the BLM’s Lisa Reid, the Grulla Horse should be insured a happy ending, but as of this writing, his fate was not official.
If the Grulla Horse does go to a good home or to a sanctuary, he’ll be among the few lucky wild horses.
Decades after President Nixon protected the wild horses, the BLM’s critics say, the Bureau has mismanaged its obligation to the mustangs and wild burros and capitulated to economic pressure from cattle ranchers who want to use the public lands for private profits.
The animals are rounded up by helicopter, sometimes chased to their deaths. The BLM keeps the survivors penned in holding areas; five of every eight wild horses now live in a government corral. They’re sometimes sold without adequate protections to prevent their going to a Mexico slaughter.
According to Suzanne Roy of the American Wild Horse Protection Committee, sending these animals to slaughter is illegal, but there’s a big loophole the horse smugglers can bulldoze through. The agreement merely says the buyer cannot “knowingly” send the horse to slaughter, she said. That leaves a lot of wiggle room. The agency follows younger horses for about a year after they’re sold, but there’s no follow-up on the old horses, like the Grulla Horse.
Roy said the best outcome would be to relocate this horse back on the range. The older horses help curb over breeding, she said, because they sense the danger when food and water are scarce.
According to AWHPC, the ratio of cattle to wild horses is 50:1 on land that belongs to you and me – yep, the same 245 million acres Congress set aside to save the wild horse and burros. Since 1971, cattle ranchers have grabbed 155 million acres of that taxpayer land, according to Return to Freedom. Meanwhile, 270,000 wild horses have been pushed out and 22.2 million acres of habitat has been lost.
“Normally, we would manage the herds by returning 3907,” Reid said. In fact, the BLM captured him and returned him once before. But overpopulation has forced the BLM to change its policy, she said.
As for Roy’s point about the horse’s age, Reid allowing this Internet auction is a break from past practices.
“We don’t normally put older horses on [the Internet],” she said because in most cases, they’re “considered less desirable or unadoptable.” But the Grulla horse is a beauty and people want the Spanish bloodlines, she said.
“When we did genetic testing, three herds” – the Sulphurs, the Tigers and the Pryors – had Spanish” bloodlines, she said. People complained when these horses did not come on the auction, Reid said, so this time, the BLM decided not to hold any horses back.
“He’s not the only older horse” in the auction. In fact, several older mares and stallions were included, she said.
“But yes, he’s beautiful,” she said.
“We would love to keep his character and continue that on the range,” she said. But according to Reid, the wild horses are now 340 percent above their quota. Plus, the Grulla Stallion had wandered outside the herd management area when the government picked him up. The BLM stepped in to respond to a public safety emergency, she said, and picked up several horses wandering by a highway. They were in danger of getting hit or causing accidents.
Maybe he was by the highway. But AWHPC and Return to Freedom disagree with the government about the population numbers. RTF says only 49,209 free-roaming wild horses and burros are left in the U.S. (with another 48,335 held in captivity). AWHPC says 70 percent of the herds have been reduced below “genetic viability level.”
Reid said it breaks her heart to see these animals struggling due to the stresses in the wild. The BLM does work with sanctuaries to save some of them, she said.
Return to Freedom is working to save two other older stallions, a black and a bay, listed on the Internet auction. No one had bid on them. Click here if you want to help rescue these horses.
Have a tip or story idea? E-mail Margo Ann Sullivan at TheGabbyDog@gmail.com and follow The_Gabby_Dog on Twitter.
Margo Ann Sullivan is a pet columnist who has written for ZooToo, and numerous publications in New York and in New England. She’s had pets all her life, starting with a rescue collie named Lollypop. The Gabby Dog column chases the news that helps pets and people. It also chronicles the adventures of Gabby, the peke-a-poo, and Asia, the tabby cat, and their many pals, hitting the high spots between Providence, RI, and Manchester, NH.
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