There are thousands of wild horses roaming California, and, unlike in all your Disney-inspired fantasies, this is a problem. The New York Times reports that the wild horse and burro population has grown so large across the American West that the Bureau of Land Management's National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board voted to recommend the BLM euthanize the current population in holding facilities. According to the BLM, as of August 2016 there are 46,000 horses/burros being held in captivity, with even more roaming free on federal lands. Fortunately for the horses, that recommendation will be ignored — however, that doesn't change the fact that California currently has 3.8 times the sustainable number of equines roaming our great state.
BLM officials were forced to publicly reject the recommendation after the Humane Society got wind of it and totally freaked — calling it "a prescription for mass slaughter on an almost unimaginable scale" that "would perhaps make the United States the biggest horse killing enterprise in the world."
The Humane Society blames the out-of-control population on the BLM itself, alleging the agency has squandered limited resources in rounding up and holding the animals instead of launching a wide-scale birth-control effort. "The agency would not be in this situation but for their long-term mis-management," Humane Society of the United States Senior Vice President of Programs & Innovations Holly Hazard said in a statement. "Alternatives to this proposal have been ignored for over 20 years. The HSUS stands ready to implement these alternatives at any time.”
California isn't the only state with a surfeit of the wild animals, of course, however a recent BLM report makes it clear that we are the worst off. The maximum sustainable number is believed to be 2,200, to reduce other environmental impacts. We have 4,925 wild horses and 3,391 wild burros.
And, with mass-slaughter off the table, BLM officials will have to determine another route to handle the horses. "What we need is a deus ex machina," BLM spokesman Tom Gorey told the Times, making it clear that his agency's plan is to wait for someone else to magically solve the issue for them.