Thursday, May 30, 2013

Horse reproduction

Posted on Thu, May 30, 2013 at 4:00 AM

I will spare you an analysis of Ari LeVaux’s outrageously flawed argumentation (see “Harvesting horses,” May 16) of simply selling (killing) “used-up” horses to curb an alleged horse overpopulation, and instead thank him for the opportunity to present a real solution—birth control for horses (and deer).

Ari was only correct about one thing: There is absolutely no need for the BLM to waste taxpayers’ money on cruel and senseless round-ups of horses, holding them indefinitely while much better, cheaper and humane solutions exist.

Horses, just like urban deer, do not need to (nor should they) be killed just because there are “too many” of them—after all, this is a human-caused problem that requires a scientific and ethically-sound solution. Ordering a death sentence to horses (or senselessly killing urban deer like the town of Helena has been doing) does not work because of the compensatory rebound effect, where wild animals will increase reproduction once others have been killed and removed, and more habitat and food sources become available.

The real solution, which is available right here in our backyard, is a vaccine that targets reproduction of wildlife. Nearly three-decade-long research has shown that the vaccine porcine zona pellucid, or PZP, has been successfully controlling reproduction in members of over 85 species, including free roaming horses, deer and African elephants, who otherwise would have been killed due to an alleged overpopulation.

The wild and free roaming horses in the Pryor Mountains have been successfully managed with PZP for many years now, and so have other free-roaming horse populations, including Assateague Island National Seashore. PZP treatment can be administered with darts and it is 95 percent effective in horses, safe even in pregnant mares and its effect is reversible within five years of treatment.

Jay Kirkpatrick, one of two leading scientists in wildlife fertility control, is with the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Montana. He can be contacted at

Anja Heister


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