WDC_W507: Wild Horse & Burro Management

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Inactive/Terminating

WDC_W507: Wild Horse & Burro Management

Duration: 10/01/2020 to 09/30/2022

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

The 1971 Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act directs the Bureau of Land Management to “maintain a thriving natural ecological balance and multiple use relationship.” The law has been amended several times to address concerns about the health of both animals and rangelands.

When the act was passed, an estimated 17,300 feral horses and 8,045 burros were on the range. The national appropriate management level for wild horses and burros in the 10 western states is currently set at 26,715 animals. By the end of 2017, public rangelands in the 10 western states were home to about 73,000 wild horses and burros plus an estimated 13,000 foals. BLM cares for an additional 46,000 un-adopted and unsold animals at corrals and contracted private pastures in the Midwest. Population size of each herd has the potential to increase by 15-20 percent every year, doubling in four or five years due to a lack of natural predators. These numbers do not include the estimated 100,000 animals within Native American reservations. The BLM estimates that current numbers are approximately three times what the range can support and that overpopulation conditions are leading to starvation and death of horses and severe rangeland degradation affecting other wildlife populations on the range.

The BLM budget for the wild horse and burro program is $80.4 million. The cost of housing and feeding the wild horses at the centers (corrals) is about $50 million or roughly 63% of the entire wild horse and burro program budget. Adoption, which is challenging and costs about $4,500 per horse, has declined by 70 percent over the past 10 years to 2,912 in 2016.

The President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget proposal requests the authority to use all management tools provided by the Act. This Western Region Rapid Response Project will evaluate the suite of management options available to the BLM and offer comprehensive, science-based recommendations to the BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board.


  1. Integrate existing biological, ecological and economic data to make comprehensive science-based recommendations for the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board for sustainable management of wild and free-roaming horses and burros and the rangelands they inhabit.
  2. Identify areas for future collaboration between land-grant universities and the BLM and others for sustainable management of wild and free-roaming horses and burros and the rangeland they inhabit.

Procedures and Activities

Outputs are expected to be reports and recommendations the BLM and others can implement to improve management of wild and free-roaming horses and burros and the rangelands they inhabit. Sustainable solutions to wild horse and burro overpopulation will reduce instances of death and starvation for animals and improve the health of rangelands, slowing the spread of invasive weeds, and improving conditions for native wildlife and plants.

Recommendations for future collaboration will increase the efficacy of science used to manage wild horses and burros and improve land-grant partnerships with the BLM and others in the west.

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan


Literature Cited




Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

Colorado State University
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