UTAH (ABC4) – Since 1971 the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service has been dedicated to overseeing and protecting America’s wild horses and burros which roam freely in ten of North America’s western states, including Utah. 

However, since receiving federal protections both species have proven how impressively fast they can repopulate. As a result, a big part of both organizations’ jobs has been managing herds to ensure that they will not contribute to the overpopulation of either species. 

Research shows that in 1971 an estimated 25,000 wild horses and burros lived on public U.S. lands. The same research states that roughly 27,000 wild horses and burros can live in harmony with wildlife and livestock on public U.S. lands today, but in 2021 nearly 86,000 wild horses and burros were expected to be settled across public U.S. lands. 

Without proper management, herds of wild horses and burros have the potential of doubling in size every four years. 

Currently, in America, 35 herds are either below or at appropriate population size, while 142 herds are considered overpopulated. 

Overpopulation does not come without its consequences. Both public lands and herd health are being affected as a result. Overpopulation of herds often leads to a shortage of food and water for members of the herd, less native vegetation and more invasive weeds across public lands, and more wild horses and burros venturing out of their habitats and onto highways and private properties in search of food and water. 

The BLM is doing its part to manage the situation by utilizing gather-and-removal methods to decrease the population of herds, implementing fertility control, and finding good, long-term homes for the animals removed from their herds. 

The wild horses and burros extracted from overpopulated herds often end up adopted and placed into private care. Those that are not adopted or sold are sent to off-range pastures where they receive ample amounts of food and water as well as long-term care. 

For more information, visit the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horses and Burros Program Twitter page