Photo Of The Week – 01/25/11

January 26, 2011

McCullough Peaks family. The band stallion is on the far right – his name is Handsome. Very appropriate don’t you think?

I just received a letter from the United States Department of the Interior (Bureau of Land Management) regarding the proposed implementation of a fertility control field darting program for the McCullough Peaks HMA. The EA (Environmental Assessment) is available to read online at: McCullough Peaks Herd Management Area.

Reviewers of the EA have 30 days to comment. Comments should be addressed to Patricia L. Hatle, BLM-CYFO, 1002 Blackburn Ave., Cody, WY 82414 and postmarked no later than February 22, 2011. Comments can also be e-mailed no later than close of business on February 22, 2011, to:

Just a little bit of information that I can offer regarding the information above. Field darting means the use of the one year version of the fertility control drug, PZP. The 2-year PZP requires putting horses into chutes for application and has been shown to have very unpredictable results. I know there is a lot of opposition to the use of PZP in any form, but let me offer these thoughts to consider – and this is addressing just this particular herd and is just my personal opinion.

The McCullough Peaks HMA has boundaries. The horses are no longer free roaming so realistically, some form of management must be implemented. I’ve been out to this HMA many times and I’ve spoken at length with the Range Specialist (Tricia Hatle). I’ve been told that the horses cannot be managed successfully by predation (a viable option for say, the Pryor Mtn HMA if mountain lions were no longer hunted there). There is no prey base. There is only a very small population of deer and research has indicated that the area is also too open to attract predatory animals such as wolves (who do occassionally pass through) or mountain lions.

So, if this is the case, it seems to me that the least invasive and more humane management program is field darting. If successful, (dare we dream) helicopter roundups may eventually become unnecessary for this HMA. And should the horse population exceed the AML at some point, bait trapping for adoptable candidates could be employed. To me, this is a much better alternative to the ripping apart of family bands as they try to escape a helicopter and the indiscriminate removal of unadoptable, long-term holding bound, sale authority aged horses – the leaders and teachers of the young. Just some food for thought. I encourage everyone to do their own research into the issue. Here is a link to another post about PZP that offers even more information:

(Click on the image for a larger/sharper view)

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14 Responses to “Photo Of The Week – 01/25/11”

  1. Jan Says:

    Oh…he IS Handsome, Pam – very deserving of that name! And a sturdy specimen he is, too – WOW! My eye went directly to him soon as the page opened for me!

    Thanks for the photo of the week…and Thanks, too, for the “thought food” and for sharing your feelings on the field darting. I am conflicted on the use of PZP…but I can’t think of a world without ‘our’ Mustangs. If a compromise HAS to be made to keep as many of our Wild Ones wild and in the wild, and keep their numbers manageable in the eyes of those who believe their numbers are too vast…this compromise certainly does seem the least invasive and most effective.

    If this method of Herd management in this particular HMA is successful, could it not be a model for future management in other HMAs?

    I am still so very new to all of this, and maybe I’m off base, but it sounds a reasonable alternative to the mass, and indescriminate, round ups.

    Thanks again…and Thank You so very much for ALL you do in the name of saving one of our most precious national treasures – The Mustang.

    ~ Jan

  2. JoyfulSteph Says:

    I mirror your thoughts. Unfortunate in the Prior herd that the birth control still has the mares cycling monthly (driving the stallions crazy) and that when foaling does occur it’s often in the wrong season. HOWEVER this is certainly the lesser of the many other evils practiced on our beloved wild “brothers”. I like the fact that it’s an annual dose. Perhaps some of the monies saved can go towards birth control research. P.S. when I can manage a few hours to pick up my paint brush – Handsome will definately be on my canvas! This group shot is beautiful! Thank you for your work and for making these herds apart of my life!

  3. Marlene McChesney Says:

    Hi Pam

    I appreciate so much your time and efforts into the protection and longivity of these beautiful
    animals. You have educated me so much. I think
    this is the key. Education and awareness. The general public has a kind heart….if we could just figure out a way to educate more people. The
    higher the numbers I would think woud be the better. Your photography is breathe taking! I know I have ask you before but I have lost it. What kind of camera and lense do you use most of the time? I have a nikon D300 and I want to get
    a 70 – 200mm with fixed apterture. I am at a friends ranch in far north east corner of New Mexico. Are there any bands close to here?

    Thank you so much.
    God Bless you Pam


  4. arlene orlando Says:

    Yes !!!! he is exceptional, WOW he certainly has been given the Name that Suits him…………. Beauty like his can only be achieved by Only MOTHER NATURE !!!! She is Phenomenal isnt she ??? a very capable Lady to handle the Balances also……….All should be left to her discretion… She proves she is the Best !!! Thank You Again Pam……………..

  5. Puller Lanigan Says:

    Hi Pam, he is indeed a Handsome fellow!! Great photo. Okay, I do rescue, so obviously don’t have a problem with intermediate use of hormone therapy to control the horses. That being said, what I can’t understand is DOI has been using this drug for at least 10 years. Why in 10 years haven’t they arranged for research to be done on it? I almost fainted when I heard they had tried spaying mares (!). Those poor animals.

    I just think it’s sad the ‘West’ as we know it is being cut and drawn and all wildlife (not just the horses) are being maintained basically in free-roaming zoological parks. Fencing, of course, is for the benefit of livestock. Fencing also cuts down on genetic diversity when these animals cannot intermix with other herds and CAUSES so many of the vegetative and water problems by not allowing animals to leave and not allow animals access to vital sustenance.

    What kind of management is that?

  6. Janet Ferguson Says:

    I am so glad that “the man (or woman!) upstairs” wasn’t at all like Henry Ford with his “they can have any color they want as long as it’s black.”

    Black is beautiful, but diversity is where it’s all happening!

  7. jan eaker Says:

    Pam, he is gorgeous, as is his family. If field darting is a viable option, which means the end of helicopter stampedes in this HMA, I support it. It seems to me that in finite areas, this is a solution. Bait trapping is much more humane than what is happening now.
    thank you for all you do and the beautiful pictures you share.

  8. pnickoles Says:

    I’m glad so many of you appreciate Mr. Handsome as much as I do. ๐Ÿ™‚

    The use of PZP on the wild horses is a tough topic (and one that folks should really read up on). I personally think it is an alternative that we need to think about using in HMA’s where it is practical. The “Peaks” herd has been extensively documented and studied. This is crucial to administering the field darting program successfully. Know the stallions, know the mares and you know how well they’re represented on the range. You can make educated decisions about which horses can be darted without destroying/eliminating a particular line or genetic presence.

    To answer some of your specific questions: Jan, PZP has been used on the Assateague Island horses for over 20 years – the one year or “native” PZP. Out-of-season births can occur naturally even where no PZP has been used.

    Marlene – The Monero Sanctuary is on Hwy. 112, north of Tierra Amarilla and about 35 miles south of Chama. And, I believe there are a couple of other “wild” herds left, but I can’t tell you about them since I’ve never visited. Anyone else know? Generally, I use either a 200-400mm f/4 or 300mm f/2.8 with a 1.4 teleconverter for lenses. I have a Nikon D200 and D300s. Have a great time!

  9. pnickoles Says:

    Thanks Arlene – I agree, Mother Nature is the very best creator and artist. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Puller – so much in your statements. I agree about the boundary issues, but, since it’s a fact of life these days, management must adjust accordingly. I have a hard time with the reported water and forage problems in a lot of these HMA’s. I simply don’t find it in my visits. Again, I’m addressing only the particular HMA’s that I’ve been to myself. I cannot comment on what I haven’t seen. In my personal opinion (based on years of experiences in the ranges), I tend to view the reports as propaganda primarily to support unnecessary roundups for other agendas. I have viewed and photographed the horses and the range and I simply don’t see the dire circumstances so often mentioned before a roundup takes place. And, I’m not totally uneducated on the matter. I was given the opportunity to participate in a hands-on class that taught me about range health, grasses, etc. by BLM personnel. I now know more specifically what to look for and am able to judge range conditions more accurately (I’m no expert, but I’ve given myself some education on the subject which I think is very important). I try to give myself every tool and the firsthand experience(s) before making a decision about something and because of that, I’m pretty clear on where I stand. However, it’s up to each individual to make up their own mind and do their own research. That’s where a solid committment to a particular cause/program/belief, etc. will come from. Okay, I’ve rambled on long enough. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. pnickoles Says:

    Hi Jan – there is no guarantee that the field darting program in the Peaks will end the roundups for this herd, but it’s the best chance of doing so. And that’s only if there are enough comments sent in support of the program’s implementation.

  11. pnickoles Says:

    Here is a link to another post about PZP that offers even more information:

  12. Lynn Bauer and Kathy Pariso Says:

    Marlene – There are no official HMAs left in New Mexico (I live in Rio Rancho). There’s the Wild Horse Territory in the Carson National Forest just a smidge west of Dulce (lots of oil and gas well roads and traffic, but the horses are there and are beautiful, if you’re lucky enough to see them!). They are managed by the Forest Service (Anthony Madrid, who has collaborated with the folks at Monero, including Dr. Karen Herman) and it’s fairly close to Monero (as I understand it, because Monero is a refuge, they charge $100 per person for a visit. The only other place is an HA called the Bordo Atravesado just east of Socorro. The person to contact about the Bordo is Mark Matthews, Assistant Field Manager, Socorro Field Office. Email address:
    As far as “BLM people” are concerned, he is more in the ballpark of a Patricia Hatle than some others I’ve heard about. Don’t hesitate to contact him. A word of warning, the area of the Bordo is extremely tough, desert terrain and the horses there (about 60) are very elusive – guess that’s because very few folks go in there to see them. Good Luck!

  13. Linda Says:

    Thank you for writing about PZP. I was not educated about Mustangs or passionate about them until I adopted one. But after falling in love with my girl, I was naturally compelled to advocate for all the others.

    After a while of talking about what to do, what to do–I got discouraged at the answers people were giving me and the differences among Mustang lovers. Add to that the thought of all the Mustangs in long-term holding (with little to no possibility of adoption), a national financial crisis and the return of the slaughter arguments–it started to seem hopeless….until I discovered the possibilities of PZP.

    I do not know of a better answer for the Mustangs. I love them dearly and appreciate everyone else who does and who works to provide for them. Thanks again for bringing up this topic.

  14. […] I also hope you’re getting those comments out about McCullough Peaks’ fertility control EA. More information here and here. […]

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