The Sage Grouse

Wild horse lovers, let’s do a poll:

Do you love horses?

Do you think it’s a really bad thing if a horse suffers pain, stress, anxiety or a frustrated love affair?

Do you think that photographs of free roaming horses with long manes and tails in the wild desert are just about the prettiest thing you have ever seen?

Do you think that Cheryl Crowe is an amazing, talented, smart person with good intentions?

If you said “no” to any of these questions, then I don’t need you to read any further. Like the dude said, you too may be a redneck.

I am a little weak on question 2, but I am a big Yes on the others.  I don’t own and love horses; I do own and love dogs.  But when I go on a pack trip, or visit a ranch, I like to hang out with horses.

But horses are big, strong, and hungry.  They eat too much and tear up a lot of ground.  Witness the thousands of 10 or 20 or 40 acre places all over the West, chewed down to the roots by the kids’ beloved horses.

Grinding private pastures to the roots is largely a matter of private property rights, zoning arguments excluded.  Sad, messy, but of limited significance to the environment, maybe.

Then dad loses his job or rancher gets foreclosed.  Hobby horse person or cowboy can’t afford it any more.  What do you do?

Well you could pay a vet to put the horse down and dispose of it.  That is very expensive; it costs a lot of money to bury or incinerate a horse.

Lacking your own resolve to personally kill the family horse and hire a backhoe to bury it, you take it out to the nearest desert and turn it loose.  You have now salved your own conscience and turned your private problem into a public one.  Now your problem horse has become the public’s problem horse, and that is where Cheryl Crow comes in.  Cheryl loves animals, as do I.  She hates the idea of animals suffering pain; so do I.  But, eschewing any concepts of personal responsibility, and having no comprehension of the damage done to the public lands by thousands of free-range hooved equines, she weighs in to oppose roundups of these destructive critters; this is where we part company.

For hundreds of years people have been losing or releasing unwanted horses into the public domain; they do not just stand there, they eat everything and tear up everything and reproduce like crazy in the absence of effective predators, and the males build monstrous piles of manure as territory markers (not very significant to you until you hit a frozen pile in the winter and lose your front axle).

Much of the desert free-range of feral equines in Wyoming is habitat of the Greater Sage-grouse, an endangered native species.  Much of the desert free-range of feral equines in southern California is native range of the desert bighorn sheep, a rare and declining species.  The feral equines, lauded on TV by a bunch of celebrities, are tearing the daylights out of the habitat and crowding native creatures out of the water holes.

I would like to do a little inciting of my own:  these free-spirited, photogenic, abandoned horses with raging hormones and insatiable appetites, ruining critical habitat for actual, real, legitimate wild species, need to be taken off the public range and not go to a taxpayer-supported, rented “corral to die in” horsey nursing home.  They should go to a humane, clean, slaughter house, there to be rendered into useful food.  Dog food, French gourmet food, whatever.  The same slaughter house which would take families’ old horses to a humane ending instead of forcing the family to turn the beloved pet out into the desert.

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