The Bureau of Land Management has reversed its decision to surgically sterilize more than 200 wild horses in southeast Oregon.
The federal agency dropped its plan after a group called Front Range Equine Rescue filed a lawsuit against the program in July. The group argued the proposed surgical procedures were illegal, untested and dangerous.
“The proposed program stepped over the line by suggesting and proposing invasive sterilization of a type that’s never been done and has potential for great risk to the horses,” said the group's attorney Bruce Wagman.
Gary Shine is with the Oregon office of the BLM. He says the procedures are safe and humane. But the lawsuit would have put BLM staff at risk by requiring unnecessary people or equipment during surgeries.
“It is important that BLM staff and our research partners are focused on the welfare of the animals without additional distraction disruption or safety concerns,” he said.
Feral horses and burros are protected under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, but overpopulated herds can do a lot of environmental damage. Spaying wild mares is one way to control the population.
This summer, wild horse managers tried spaying some of the wild mares. One of the procedures, an ovariectomy, surgically removes a mares' ovaries. The other two procedures are tubal ligation, which consists of cutting fallopian tubes, or a laser ablation, which uses a laser to essentially dismantle the horse’s ovaries.
The agency says that's more than double what it considers healthy for the animals and the rangeland.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.