The wild horses in the badlands have become as popular as celebrities. You can see it all play out on a number of Facebook groups and nonprofits that know each horse by name.
The horses have become quite an attraction at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park over the years. And it’s clear to see that all the groups and organizations have one common goal: to care for the horses and their well-being.
One group started following the horses in 2017. Christine Kman began the Chasing Horses Facebook page as a way to document her trips to the Park.
Kman says, “We have people all over the world literally that are interested in these horses. We have people that have come here because they follow us on our Facebook page to see the horses in the park.”
Two years later, she opened a gift shop in Medora that highlights the animals of the Badlands and now she’s waiting for non profit status approval for her horse advocacy group.
Kman adds, “We’re hoping that we can raise awareness for the horses in the park and we know that we’ve done that through our business that we started.”
Her concern? The management of the wild horses.
Kman says, “How do we look at genetics? How do we make sure that we keep the historical value of these horses?”
The North Dakota Badlands Horse Organization has been volunteering with the National Park for over 20 years. They say the horses have been dumped in the park for decades and over the years they’ve had to thin the numbers of the horses.
Mary Lou Weber, president of North Dakota Badlands Horse says, “What they’ve been doing in the last few years is capturing the young horses and that’s really giving the horses the best chance of finding a good home.”
Weber says the organization has worked closely with the park to ensure safe management of the horses. One way of doing this is giving birth control to older mares.
Weber adds, “I don’t know that they’ve found scientifically any better way to do it. Over the years the product that they’ve used has shown itself to be quite safe. It’s safe for any invitro foal.”
She says there are pros and cons of the way birth control is delivered to the horses. Some of the mares have had to deal with problems such as abscesses when the birth control is delivered remotely. But Weber says contraception is better than the horses overpopulating.
Weber explains, “There’s a problem with overgrazing and starvation and all those terrible things that could happen.”
Part of saving the wild horses requires culling the herd and that responsibility is up to the Bureau of Land Management.
Kman says, “Come April, they’re gonna start capturing the horses and culling again and last year we had a unique opportunity where because of COVID-19 we actually, us and our followers on our page, petitioned the park, called the park, sent emails, and asked them, ‘Please in the middle of a global pandemic and an economic recession can we not capture horses?’ Who’s gonna buy a horse and what are you gonna do with the horses when they don’t sell?”
So the park agreed to not capture horses in 2020, but the question remains what will happen with the horses this spring?
Park management declined an interview but did say they recognize the horses are special.
And there are developments they’re waiting on for the future of herd planning actions.