There are too many wild horses in Oregon’s Ochoco National Forest. Currently, over 120 horses roam the forest, which is about 56% over the 2021 Ochoco Wild Horse Management Plan objective of 47 to 57 horses, according to The Oregonian.
Last week, the U.S. Forest Service announced the decision to cut the wild horse population in half based upon the updated management plan. The previous management plan was drafted 46 years ago.
The current herd objective is based upon a variety of factors, including forage availability and genetic variability. According to The Oregonian, the horses reside primarily 25 to 30 miles east of Prineville and grazes on 27,000 acres that span 4,000’ to 7,000’ in elevation and are damaging riparian areas, which is why the Forest Service has decided to reduce numbers in the area.
“The horses will be managed through gathers beginning in the fall of 2021,” said Kassidy Kern, a spokesperson for the Ochoco National Forest. “It will likely take five years or more to gather down to the appropriate management level set out in this plan.”
“Gathering a little at a time allows us to gather valuable genetic information to work with wild horse genetics experts to ensure that we have adequate genetic variability in the herd,” said Kern. “Additionally, when we bait the horses into the corrals, we typically only get smaller bands of 5-10 at a time. Gathering this way minimizes stress on the animals.”
Horses that are removed from the forest will be transported to the Bureau of Land Management corral in Burns, a Forest Service corral or other private facilities and will be available for adoption. Once the herd is decreased to a manageable size, officials plan to use contraception and sterilization to maintain objective, according to The Oregonian.