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PZP in the Pryors

Effectively using the infertility vaccine to keep mustangs free

Dear Friends of the Pryor Mustangs;
 
The Cloud Foundation is advocating for a more effective use of PZP on females in the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range. The immediate goal is to increase the intervals between removals of young Pryor horses. The long-range goal is achieving a balance of mortality and reproduction so that massive removals will no longer be necessary, and no removals or only small removals (less than 10 horses) will ever be required.  

We believe that the remotely delivered, reversible, well-vetted PZP vaccine is a tool which can be used to achieve this goal. It is our hope that a Pryor colt or filly born wild in this beautiful place will have the opportunity to live out its life, regardless if that is a long or a short one, in their home.

The safest place for a wild horse is in their home with their families. Many of you may have heard me say this over the years. When removed, the future can become murky for many of these vulnerable young animals. 

Help us live free
Increasingly, the Cloud Foundation (TCF) has stepped in directly or behind the scenes to rescue adopted Pryor Mustangs; because they are being mistreated; because they are susceptible to purchase by kill buyers (our most recent filly was being offered on Craigslist where killer buyers lurk); or because their owners are simply unable to continue caring for them for financial or other reasons. Regardless of the reason, TCF is committed to seeing that no Pryor mustang ever goes to slaughter, remains in a situation where he or she is suffering, or goes to short term holding and becomes an anonymous youngster in the adoption pipeline. 
We believe that on the range management is essential to keep our mustang herds safe and out of BLM holding areas where they have been sold to buyers who have likely trafficked them to slaughter. 
Left: Prince & Hera's 2012 daughter, Maia
The Bureau of Land Management in Billings, Montana opted for bait trapping in 2012, which we applauded. It was expertly done. However, the number of young horses removed did not equal the number of interested, quality adopters. Those that attended the adoption last September know what I am talking about. TCF board member, Lisa Friday, stepped in, as did others, or there would have been “leftovers.” This is heartbreaking for those of us who watch these vibrant, young animals grow up in their spectacular home. No wild horse, Pryor or otherwise, should ever be considered a “leftover.” This leaves them vulnerable to a lifetime of incarceration or worse.
Mandan (center), a 2012 foal born into Doc's band. The grulla filly in front, Jill, was removed during bait trapping. She is part of the Virginia Pryor 9 now. Most mustangs removed from the wild are not so fortunate. 
With this in mind, TCF will be recommending the following to BLM:
 
1.     Remotely deliver the PZP primer to every female on the range one year and older that has not been previously treated. Then, at any time in the future, one additional dose remotely delivered (the booster) will render that female infertile for one year. The primer is good for the lifetime of the female and can be administered at any time of the year. To be most effective, however, the booster should be administered during late winter and early spring. 

2.     Utilize adaptive management[1], adjusting the numbers and ages of horses that receive the drug year-by-year. Adaptive management allows BLM to have flexibility—to adjust which mares receive the drug based on what is happening reproduction-wise and mortality-wise from year to year. It allows for exceptions to otherwise rigid parameters.

3.     We will encourage BLM to eliminate or place a very low priority on darting older mares that have not foaled for five years or more. We will encourage BLM to eliminate treating any mares who have had a life-threatening reaction to the darting.

We will also recommend that BLM eliminate or place a very low priority on mares that obviously do not respond to treatment. Time and effort spent darting mares in these categories is time better spent on darting those that are high priority females.
Left: One of the oldest horses in the Pryors, Winnemucca (with her band stallion, Custer). She has not foaled since 2003 when she gave birth to Doc, now a Pryor band stallion. 
4.     We will recommend that Seneca be removed from the darting program. Adaptive management allows BLM to make exceptions and this is one we strongly suggest.
Seneca is with the young band stallion, Hickok (who has not fathered a foal to our knowledge), the old mare Hightail and Seneca’s son (and Hickok’s buddy) Jesse James. They live at the gate of the PMWHR in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area along the paved road. This is the most visible band in the Pryor Mountains. 
If Seneca is allowed to return to fertility, the public may have an opportunity to view a foal in a highly visible, accessible location. A foal will increase the enjoyment of those visiting and allow them to gain an appreciation for the importance of family in mustang society. A foal will increase people’s appreciation for, not only the Spanish Pryor Mustangs, but all wild horses. 

5.     We will recommend that every mare, regardless of age, be given the booster for one year, with the exception of those situations named above. We believe this can delay the next removal for several years and will reduce the number of young horses that are removed.
One year of infertility treatment will not result in zero foals being born because the drug is not 100% effective. There will always be foals born, but not the 20 or more foals that could be born in 2013. 
Left: Miguel (2012) with his father, Flint. 
 6.     We will recommend that BLM look at narrowing the age group in the “core breeding population” (currently 5 to 10 year olds) and/or darting mares in the core if they have multiple offspring on the range. Some of the mares in the 5-10 year age group have foaled every year and deserve a break. We believe this age group may be reproducing at a higher rate simply because they are the only ones not on PZP and are trying to fill their ranks which is a natural phenomenon known as compensatory reproduction. 
Greta with her 2012 foal, Marlene. Greta was born in 2006, is not on PZP, and has foaled every year since 2009.
Two of her four foals have already been removed. 
I want to stress to you that TCF has not abandoned the natural management strategies we have always advocated. These include the protection of the most effective predator of wild horse foals, the mountain lion.
Mountain lions kept the Pryor herd in balance (mortality and births were roughly equal when averaged over a four-year period) from 2001-2005. (It should be noted that PZP had already slightly reduced the birth rates going into these high mortality years.)
The killing of the cats, which was encouraged by the previous managers of the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, resulted in a collapse of the natural balance. We believe that this balance can occur again and we continue to advocate for reduced lion hunting in the area. In the meantime, PZP is a tool that can mimic what the cougars did naturally.
 
Without more effective use of PZP, here is the sad reality: many of the foals born in 2012 and those born in the next several years will not be allowed to grow to adulthood on the Pryor Mountains. They will be removed and offered for adoption. There is virtually no adoption market for wild horses anymore—not even for young Pryor Mustangs. 
The option we advocate is to control births with a tested and reversible vaccine until predation is restored, the historic range is returned to the herd, and the AML is increased. Increasing the AML and expanding the range (taking down the fence atop the mountain) is the crux of our lawsuit with BLM. A ruling has not yet been made on the merits of our case.
Please feel free to contact us regarding this initiative on the Pryors. We thank the Billings BLM for being so responsive to our request for change and for allowing the public to participate in the process. We will let you know when we post our official scoping comments on the website. We encourage you to comment on this scoping process, please click here. Comments are due May 7th.
 
Happy Trails!
Ginger
[1] Adaptive Management is a decision process that promotes flexibility and can be adjusted in the face of uncertainties as outcomes from management actions and other events become better understood. Careful monitoring of these outcomes both advances scientific understanding and helps adjust policies or operations as part of an iterative learning process. Adaptive management also recognizes the importance of natural variability in contributing to ecological resilience and productivity. It is not a ‘trial and error’ process, but rather emphasizes learning while doing. Adaptive management does not represent an end in itself, but rather a means to more effective decisions and enhanced benefits. Its true measure is in how well it helps meet environmental, social, and economic goals; increases scientific knowledge; and reduces tensions among stakeholders.” - From a PowerPoint presentation: “The scientific approach to flexible natural resource management” by Ron Huntsinger - National Science Coordinator, BLM and Peg Sorensen – NEPA analyst, Division of Planning, BLM. Referring source: “Adaptive Management” by the US Department of the Interior Technical Guide.

"Wild But Not Free" - a special report from Senior Investigative Correspondent Lisa Myers on wild horses in the American West - will be featured soon on the Today Show as well as the NBC Nightly News. Ginger and other advocates were interviewed for the broadcast. We will do our best to keep you informed when we hear of an air date. 
Federal court sanctions government plan to eliminate wild free-roaming horses from Wyoming Checkerboard. Click here to read the latest on our fight to keep Wyoming's mustangs roaming free. 
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