Why do the TRNP horses need a wild horse management plan anyway? Part 2

We have all taken note over the past couple of years how our beloved band stallions are beginning to lose their bands: 2004 Stallion Brutus, then 2001 Stallion Thunder Cloud, and the latest to join this group was 2001 Stallion Satellite.  We are now also seeing 2001 Stallion Red Face beginning to be challenged for his band as he lost 3 members of his band over the last few weeks.

Most of the stallions listed above are over 20 years old now.  They have gone unchallenged for years as the park as continued to senselessly cull the herd, with no clear plan of management for these horses, aside from the management of the actual number of horses in the park.  There have simply not been enough bachelor stallions to challenge the band stallions.

The last helicopter round up in TRNP was in 2013.  In 2014, in yet another stellar horse management move, the park did not remove ANY horses. 

Those 2014 “babies” are grown up now and want a band of their own.  No matter how much we are rooting for our favorite bad ass band stallion, the youth, strength, and stamina of a horse half the age of our older band stallions is proving that the youth are winning out as our older horses are finding themselves bachelors once again.  A role that many of them have not played for over 15 years!!  

Yes, it is all part of the circle of life and no matter how old the band stallions are when they lose their band it is hard to watch.  The difference is that these stallions trying to defend their bands at an older age is what causes the injuries we are seeing. 

The truth is, there SHOULD be more older bachelor stallions, like 2000 Stallion Circus.  They would be the ones teaching the new up and coming stallions as they prepare them to help this herd carry on. 

The significantly low number of bachelor stallions is not the only issue.  The herd is unbalanced in a number of ways.

When you look at the horses that were born in TRNP from 1998-2018 (the fate of the 2019-2021 horses remains unknown, so they are not included here) there are currently approximately 80 mares & fillies in this herd compared to approximately 29 stallions.  Those numbers should be closer to 50/50. 

There are also significant imbalances in the age of the horses:
            40 are between the age of 16-24
            31 are between the age of 10-15
            39 are between the age of 4-9

According to the specialists in wild horse management, the 3–9-year-old age group should be the largest.  In recent years, this herds largest group has been the older horses.  Since we started documenting this herd in 2016, we have lost about 14 horses from that older age group.  The older group is getting smaller.  NOT because of any type of management, because they are literally dying off, many leaving no offspring to carry on their bloodlines. 

IF there was a wild horse management plan in place, these imbalances would be addressed.  The other National Park’s with wild horses that have successful horse management plans in place have maintained well-balanced herds.  Why wouldn’t we want the same for the horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park?

There are many other facts that support our concerns regarding why a wild horse management plan should be in place.  It is safe to say that Theodore Roosevelt Park management is also aware of that they SHOULD have a wild horse management plan in place.  Their standard answer to WHEN they would begin working on a wild horse management plan hasn’t changed in over 50 years: “We will begin working on the new wild horse management plan in the next 2-3 years.”  The current timeline, as stated on TRNP’s wild horse “portal” states: “The NPS will be initiating a new horse management planning process during fall of 2021. Updates on timelines will be posted on the portal.”

Once again, the public and the wild horses of TRNP are left to wait for the management of Theodore Roosevelt National Park to simply do their job, per their NPS regulations, that they should have done 66 years ago.

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