The Bureau of Land Management, along with USDA, started testing a promising new fertility control vaccine this month that could help address the growing overpopulation of wild horses covering almost 27 million acres of public rangelands.

Researchers believe the Oocyte Growth Factor (OGF) vaccine, administered to a captured wild mare through a single dose, may safely prevent pregnancy for up to three years or longer. The most common fertility control vaccines for wild horses in use today are short-lasting and require near-annual treatment to remain effective, the agency says.

In Fiscal Year 2017, the BLM spent nearly 60% of its $81 million budget for the Wild Horse and Burro Program on the care of animals removed from the range, nearly $48,000 for each unadopted horse that remains in BLM’s care over its lifetime.

“For decades, the BLM has sought a long-term vaccine that could help effectively and humanely control the rapid growth of wild horse and burro populations on public lands,” said BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Perry Pendley. “Now more than ever, an all-of-the-above approach is needed as a rapidly growing overpopulation of wild horses and burros threatens the long-term health of our public lands."

BLM’s annual wild horse and burro population estimates showed approximately 95,000 wild horses and burros on public lands — the most ever estimated by the agency. That compares to approximately 27,000 that roamed the land when the animals became federally protected and managed under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.

In addition to developing better fertility control tools, the BLM is also incentivizing horse ownership through a new Adoption Incentive Program (AIP). The AIP, which began midway through Fiscal Year 2019, helped the agency achieve a 15-year record for total placements that year of 7,104 animals. Total placements include animals adopted, sold or transferred to another public agency.

Each animal successfully placed into private care is estimated to save taxpayers approximately $24,000 in lifetime off-range holding costs. That amounts to over $170 million in lifetime savings generated during Fiscal Year 2019 alone, according to BLM.

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