RENO — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management needs to step up its research into population control methods for wild horses to help curb the spiraling costs of rounding up the animals across the West and housing them in holding facilities, federal inspectors said Monday.
The new report by the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General mostly defended the BLM roundups that often are criticized by horse protection advocates.
The OIG found no evidence of inhumane treatment of animals and concluded the roundups are necessary to cull the overpopulated herds, which take a toll on the health of the range.
The BLM manages 38,365 wild horses and burros in 180 different herd management areas covering about 32 million acres in 10 western states. Another nearly 38,000 are in holding facilities in Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
"The growing population of these animals must be addressed to achieve and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance of the authorized uses of the land, thus gathers are necessary and justified actions," the OIG report said.
But the report also found there is a need for an "urgent and aggressive focus on research and testing of improved population control methods" to reduce the need for additional holding facilities and preserves.