Frequently Asked Questions
Why do feral animal and wildlife populations have to be managed?
The predators that used to naturally control deer, free-roaming horses, and feral hogs have largely been eliminated. Without predators, these populations grow rapidly and habitats become crowded. Deer in urban areas are involved in numerous accidents with motor vehicles. Overgrazing by horses damages rangelands leaving little forage for themselves and other wildlife. Feral hogs do billions of dollars in damage to agriculture each year, and have been responsible for killing horses and even people. With thoughtful, effective management, deer and wild horses can continue to live free and feral hogs can be controlled.
Does the United States have a wild horse population problem?
Wild horses are cherished in America; they are beautiful and majestic animals. However, left unchecked by a lack of predators, their numbers can double every five years. Already, there are too many free-roaming horses, which is having a devastating effect on the nation’s rangelands and land owned by Native American tribes. In 2019, the Bureau of Land Management had approximately 88,000 horses on the open range—more than 60,000 over the allowed maximum level (AML) of 26,690 horses. The AML represents the number of horses that can thrive in balance with other public land resources and uses. Free-roaming horses also live on land owned or managed by other government and tribal entities, bringing the actual number to around 300,000. The impact on the environment and subsequent loss of habitat for native species is devastating.
How is the free-roaming horse population currently managed?
Traditional methods of removing wild horses from the open range include costly, controversial roundups involving helicopters and traps. These methods are labor intensive, cause intense stress to the horses, and are dangerous for horses and humans. Post roundup, the ideal situation is for horses to be adopted; indeed the popularity of competitions like “Mustang Makeover” have demonstrated the appeal and versatility of these horses among equine enthusiasts. But the number of adopters does not address the vast numbers of available horses; less than 10% of captured horses are adopted each year. Those not adopted are kept in holding pens and fed by the federal government. In 2018, the U.S. government spent more than $80 million on these efforts and just approved spending more than $100 million in 2020.
What is WPM’s Remote Wildlife Vaccine Delivery System?
WPM’s Remote Wildlife Vaccine Delivery System is the first humane, high-tech system created to manage free-roaming horses and other species in a manner that respects the animal and habitat. The system includes a feeding Hub the horses enter under their own free will. Video cameras are used to identify the sex of the individual horses. While the horse is feeding, it is injected with low-velocity darts—an RFID microchip that gives the horse a unique identity and enables tracking, and if the horse is a female, a contraceptive that keeps her from becoming pregnant for a year. The process does not stress the horses; they freely return to enjoy the alfalfa in the Hub on a regular basis and “check in” with their RFID microchip. WPM’s system is safer, more effective and less costly than roundups. It’s also easier to scale to address individual bands of horses or entire rangeland or tribal land populations. Learn more about our technology here.
Why are the horses micro-chipped?
How are the contraceptive vaccines delivered to the animals?
The two vaccines used with free-roaming horse populations are PZP and GonaCon™. Both can be administered by dart or hand. PZP is traditionally administered to the rear muscle group of the horse. The rear muscle group is the largest and therefore presents the biggest target for dart guns. GonaCon can be administered into any muscle group. The WPM system is designed to deliver vaccines to a horse’s triceps muscles, which some veterinarians believe is more advantageous in terms of dispersal in the horse’s system. We are working to secure approval to administer PZP to this alternative location.
What contraceptive vaccines are available?
What role do video cameras play in WPM’s Remote Vaccine Delivery System?
Our video cameras play several important roles. They are automatically triggered when horses approach the Hub and capture video in regular sunlight as well as after dark. Cameras are positioned at low angles to allow the determination of a horse’s sex. Other cameras are focused on the forequarters of the horse while in the hub to verify micro chipping and vaccination. The video is also used to monitor injection sites. All video can be archived. The video can also be used to support facial recognition technology, a project WPM is working on with Sandia National Labs. Finally, our “hidden” cameras provide tons of interesting video of the horses’ social behavior.
I’m a dedicated animal advocate and have concerns about how WPM’s system will affect America’s wild and free-roaming horses and the advocates who work so hard to protect them?
Can WPM’s Remote Vaccine Delivery System be used on other feral or wild animal species?
Our system can be adapted to humanely manage many other animal species whose populations are growing out of control and are difficult to manage using traditional means. This includes feral hogs, deer, camels, and kangaroos. Just as with free-roaming horses, our system relies on technology rather than the stress of roundups to deliver contraceptives and microchips to the animals. And, animals no longer have to be rounded up or chased to deliver contraceptive booster shots. Surgical sterilization is not necessary either!
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