QUIZ: How much do you know about the American West's wild horse population?


A recent evaluation by a National Research Council committee sheds light on the National Wild Horses and Burros Program.

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A recent National Academies Press report looks at the science of managing the free-ranging horses and burros on federal public lands in the western United States. According to the report, horse populations are growing by 15 to 20 percent each year while the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is limited by a budget that cannot meet the demands of the population. While public and political opposition to the slaughter of unwanted U.S. horses grows, less talk is given to the BLM's daunting task of managing the West's free-ranging--and protected--equine residents.

How much do you know about the West's wild horse and burro population?

1. Passed in 1971, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act instructs federal agencies to protect and manage horses as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands. What does the act require the BLM and other agencies to do?

A) Monitor horse numbers

B) Determine appropriate population levels

C) Remove excess horses from public lands

D) Only A and B

E) All of the above

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2. The current population objective for the free-roaming horse population in the western United States is 23,622. How many horses does the BLM report are currently free-roaming on the 179 designated herd management areas?

A) Approximately 13,000

B) Approximately 23,000

C) Approximately 33,000

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3. Since the BLM is required to remove excess horses from public lands to “preserve and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance,” what happens to the excess population?

A) Horses are sold or adopted.

B) Horses are moved to short-term holding facilities.

C) Horses are moved to long-term holding facilities.

D) Horses are sold for slaughter.

E) A and B only.

F) A, B and C only.

G) All of the above.

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4. Approximately 195,000 horses have been removed from public lands under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act since its inception in 1971. Of these, how many are currently residing in short-term and long-term holding facilities?

A) 15,000

B) 25,000

C) 45,000

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5. Approximately what is the adoption demand for wild horses annually?

A) Less than 1,000

B) 2,000 to 4,000

C) More than 4,000

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6. The National Wild Horses and Burros Program's budget was $74.9 million in 2012. What percentage of this budget is used to maintain captive horses?

A) 25 percent

B) 33 percent

C) 50 percent

D) 60 percent

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7. If the wild horse program goes unchanged, trends continue and the population continues to increase 15 to 20 percent annually, what do experts predict the cost between 2013 and 2030 will be?

A) Approximately $250 million

B) Approximately $600 million

C) Approximately $1.1 billion

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8. This year, worsening drought conditions in the West are causing severe shortages of forage and water for horses, wildlife and livestock. The BLM scheduled removal of horses from public lands will:

A) Substantially increase this year.

B) Substantially decrease this year.


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9. According to an article in Science magazine, if the wild horse population could be brought down to around 23,000, what would happen?

A) The horse population would self-limit.

B) Contraceptives plus adoptions could keep numbers at a sustainable level indefinitely.

C) The population would still be impossible to manage.


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How did you do? More correct than not? Great job!

If you want to read more about the current population management challenges faced by the BLM, click here.

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