Environment

The government wants to pay you $1,000 to adopt a wild horse. Here’s why.

If you’ll pay $25 to adopt a wild horse or burro, the government could pay you up to $1,000 thanks to a new incentive program that aims to reduce the animals’ chronic overpopulation.

According to a Tuesday news release from the Bureau of Land Management, adopters can receive $500 within 60 days of purchasing an animal, with an additional $500 available after the animal is titled — one year after the adoption date.

The BLM has managed wild mustangs and burros that roam on public lands since 1971, regularly capturing animals when their populations exceed what the 31.6 million acres of designated rangeland can support. The problem? It’s not always easy to find homes for all those equines.

According to BLM estimates, there were just under 82,000 wild horses and burros in the U.S. in 2018, more than triple the amount the rangeland can support.

“High costs and a growing number of unadopted and unsold animals in BLM holding facilities have hindered the agency’s ability to reduce overpopulation in recent years,” the release said. “Chronic overpopulation increases the risk of damage to rangeland resources through overgrazing, and raises the chances of starvation and thirst for animals in overpopulated herds.”

In 2018, BLM removed 11,472 animals from the wild, but only 4,609 of them were adopted out or sold. Nearly 1,500 were trained and just over 700 were given “fertility control treatments,” according to BLM statistics.

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The Bureau of Land Management is offering up to $1,000 to people who adopt wild horses, like this female mustang awaiting auction on March 12, 2019. Bureau of Land Management

The incentive program applies only to the thousands of untrained animals taken from the wild, the release said. The agency said the funds can ease the strain of taming the horses.

“We understand that adopting a wild horse or burro represents a commitment. The incentive is designed to help with the adopter’s initial training and humane care,” BLM Deputy Director of Programs and Policy Brian Steed said in the release.

In order to qualify for adoption, individuals must be at least 18 years old, have no prior criminal history of animal abuse and meet certain standards for facilities and care.

You can adopt online or in person at auction events. Local events are scheduled in Nampa in April, in Boise in August, and in Blackfoot in August and September.

In a Facebook post, Wild Horse and Burro Program officials said the incentive program could help ease exponential overpopulation and ultimately save taxpayers money spent on managing the herds. Currently, the program costs about $50 million each year.

“Finding good homes for excess animals and reducing overpopulation on the range are top priorities for the BLM as we strive to protect the health of these animals while balancing other legal uses of our public rangelands, including allowing for other traditional land uses such as wildlife conservation and grazing,” Steed said in the release.

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