CHEYENNE, Wyo. – The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is seeking additional homes for potentially thousands of wild horses rounded up from Western rangelands by asking landowners in a dozen states to submit proposals to rent out pastures for the animals.
The federal agency currently has contracts with landowners to keep 31,000 wild horses on about 20 off-range pastures in Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota. The pastures range in size from 1,000 to 35,000 acres and average 20,000 acres, according to the Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse and Burro Program.
The problem with wild horses on the range is they keep proliferating. They can double their numbers every four years.
Right now, an estimated 49,200 wild horses roam the West, or 22,500 more horses than the bureau's target population. Regular roundups are among the control methods.
The Bureau of Land Management adopts out many of the younger rounded-up horses. Others go to wild horse eco-sanctuaries, where people can stop by to look at and learn about the animals.
Off-range pastures are more utilitarian. The landowner agrees to occasional pre-arranged visits by the public and media, but the pastures typically aren't open to the public.
"We're kind of renting their pasture to feed the animals. They're providing supplemental feeding, and there's minimal contact with the animals," said Debbie Collins, a spokeswoman for the Wild Horse and Burro Program in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The federal agency is seeking additional off-range pastures in any of a dozen states: Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming.
Landowners with off-range pasture contracts commit to making sure the horses have sufficient forage, supplemental feed and water while giving the animals room to roam. There are numerous other requirements, and Bureau of Land Management officials say they will inspect candidate off-range pastures before awarding contracts.
How many additional off-range pastures the agency contracts will depend on the bids submitted, Collins said.
"If we have several that could hold a couple thousand versus just a couple hundred, all of that's going to come into play as to how many actual awards we may make. But we would anticipate making more than one," Collins said.
Contractors agree to provide humane care for horses for one year, with options to renew for four or nine years after that. All males are gelded before shipment to prevent the horses from reproducing. Proposals are due by April 22.
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