Sunday, April 15, 2007

Saving America's Symbols: Mustangs

Saving America's Symbols is a new article series I'm starting, featuring some of the most influential and prominent species in North America, such as Bison, Bald Eagles, and the American Mustang. Many of these animals are the backbone on which our nation was created and as such deserve our respect and continuing protection. I'm starting with the Mustangs because we're coming up on foaling season soon. Its been a strange, hard, changeable winter all over the country this year, and I doubt the Mustangs are fairing any better than the rest of us. For wild horse herds all over the southwest and in their northern ranges of Montana and Oregon and some in Alberta and British Columbia late spring and into the summer is the foaling season. For the Buruea of Land Management and other entities set with 'managing' the mustang herds this is also the height of roundup season.
During the summer of 2006 Front Range Equine Rescue (sister charity of the Cloud Foundation to save wild horses) published heartbreaking accounts of roundups that took place in Utah and Nevada. Chased by helicopters with days old foals running along side, panicked horses stumbled, broke legs, trampled foals, and collapsed from exhaustion to perish in the desert, or be rounded up later and hauled by truck to pen sites. A corraled horse panicked and broke its neck when it crashed into the fence, and another kicked a foal that had gotten mixed up with the adult horses, killing it. Even unborn foals were lost, when stress caused the mares to abort their babies. In 1971, the United States Congress recognized Mustangs as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West [...] that [...] contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people.” Is this the way we treat such living legends?
Anyone familiar with horses, wild or otherwise, has heard of the Burns Amendment. This illegal appendix to the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act virtually gutted protections for these animals, as well as impacting the lives of countless domestic horses. Further plans by Mustang management calls for using birth control on mares over 10 years of age to help hold down the population. While this is a less expensive route than the barbaric roundups (conducted at the taxpayers expense, I might add) it will still help to contribute to the downfall of one of America's most recognizable symbols of freedom. Wild Mustangs have been pushed into isolated rangelands in some areas, far seperated from other herds, and birth control would only weaken their already compromised genetic diversity. These beautiful animals, once desenced from Andalusians, Arabians, and some of the most graceful and intelligent breeds in the world would become the 'weeds' that western ranchers have long held them to be.
For more information, or to donate to FRER's campaign to save our Mustangs, visit: (Warning, this website contains disturbing photos taken by press and onlookers at Wild Horse Roundups)

When I was 13, a 30 year old adopted Mustang taught me how to jump high, and how to dream. If Bandit is still alive today he'd be in his forties. Where ever you are I still love you, Bandito.

No comments: