Horses are an American symbol that epitomizes the rugged west, freedom and strength.
But the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is looking for people to adopt 40 wild horses and burros to protect them from the dangers of overpopulation.
The wild horses and burros come from Herd Management Areas out west where the vegetation and water supply could become scarce in the presence of too many animals.
Martha Malik, public affairs specialist for the Northeastern States Field Office, said the wild horses don’t have natural predators so the herd sizes double every four years.
She said the current management level for the areas is 26,600 wild horses and burros, but the actual population is over 39,000.
“One way how we can to try to manage this level is by holding these adoptions across the U.S. … in an attempt to try to get to our appropriate management level,” Malik said.
Malik said the adoptions also help sustain the health and productivity of the public land.
The BLM will hold an “Adopt-A-Wild Horse and Burro” program September 20-21 at the Good Evening Ranch in Canvas, West Virginia.
The Bureau requires all adopters to have a 6 foot high fence for animals three years or older - those younger must have a five foot high fence - and a sturdy coral with a shelter over it.
After the adoption, BLM inspectors will check on the animal and ensure the adopter has met the requirements during a probation period.
“Once the animal is adopted on site on Saturday, the federal government still owns the animal, the adopter has to earn title to the animals,” Malik said. “So within one year, if everything is okay and checks out fine, then the adopter will earn title to the animal.”
Malik said there are some challenges that come with adopting a wild horse or burro.
“You have to learn and respect and get their trust and in turn they do the same for you,” Malik said. “There’s a gentling process that you have to go through with your animal.”
She said the gentling process is paced by the animals’ behavior and personality and how much time the adopters spend with them.
“Once you learn and get to respect their trust … that’s the best companion you could ever have, nothing they would not do for you,” Malik said.