(CN) – Defenders of wild horses are protesting a federal decision to round up 70 horses on the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range in Montana, saying the plan threatens the genetic viability of the herd. Ginger Kathrens, executive director of The Cloud Foundation, says she has “come to know members of the herd as individuals” and “understands how much their life in the wild with family members means to them.”
Kathrens, who says she won an Emmy award for her film about a pale stallion from the Pryor herd, is joined by animal rights group Front Range Equine Rescue and nature photographer Carol Walker in District of Columbia Federal Court. They say the Pryor Mountain herd of wild horses is descended from Spanish strains.
The Bureau of Land Management blames the horses for degrading the range, but the harm actually was done by domestic sheep and drought, the groups say. A 2004 range report used to justify the herd cull ignores heavy precipitation over the past three years, the advocates say.
The groups endorse mitigation of horse trails by placement of water tanks.
Genetic viability of the Pryor herd, which contains 190 wild horses one year or older, will be compromised by the plan to round up 70 animals for an uncertain fate, according to the complaint.
Wild horses are not easily domesticated. When they become aware of plans to cage them, wild horses will “throw themselves against the panels out of fear or in a desperate attempt to escape,” sometimes breaking their necks or otherwise injuring themselves. Others suffer from “capture myopathy,” or depression over loss of their freedom and separation from band members, the complaint states.
With no viable adoptive homes for the wild horses, they face an uncertain fate. The groups also cite incidents of wild horse slaughter.
The wild horse roundup violates the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the plaintiffs say, which manages wild horses as “living symbols” of the “pioneer spirit.” The groups say the plan also violates the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to assess the environmental impacts of the plan, and alternatives to it.
The groups, represented by Valerie Stapley of Laurel, Md., want the record of decision and finding of no impact vacated.
The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, established in 1968, encompasses 39,000 acres in Montana.