Study in North Dakota explores fertility control in mustangs

This article is for those of you who wonder why we started a nonprofit group when other nonprofits that claim to advocate for the wild horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park already exist.  We have also been questioned as to WHY we started a new nonprofit vs working WITH existing groups toward their advocacy goals. 

Chasing Horses Wild Horse Advocates believes that Theodore Roosevelt National Park is in desperate need of a wild horse management plan for the wild horses entrusted to their care.  TRNP has been managing ONLY the number of horses in this herd, without taking science and genetics into account when they make decisions to cull the herd.  This management plan should also address the much needed administration of birth control, instead of their current and past plans which have both included giving every mare birth control to giving none of the mare’s birth control. 

Today I want to bring your attention to this article that was written in March of 2016, 5 years into what would become Colorado State University’s 11 years of experimentation on the wild horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, ND. You can read the article in its entirety here:

From the article:

The issue of fertility control in wild horses has divided wild horse advocates. While some see it as a potentially effective and humane way to control numbers, others are vehemently opposed, worried about potential health risks and the effects of the drugs on behaviors and herd dynamics.

The project, in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, is one of two Colorado State University (CSU) studies examining elements of wild horse contraception in the US western rangelands.

A team led by researchers from Colorado State University’s Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory were trekking through the badlands of North Dakota this week to deliver the GonaCon doses.

The project stems from the team’s success studying GonaCon in both captive and free-roaming elk in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2005. That work sparked an interest to test the drug on horses as part of a study launched in 2009 at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Two researchers from the university, Dan Baker and Terry Nett, were awarded a five-year Bureau of Land Management (BLM) grant to find an optimum GonaCon revaccination schedule to suppress fertility in wild horses long-term.

The team has received about $160,000 in funding for the first two years.

“We hope this study will help cut down on the amount of scheduled roundups the park has to do – and perhaps they won’t have to do them at all if the vaccine proves effective and we find the correct dosing schedule that works for the park’s herds,” said Baker, who is an affiliate faculty member in the university’s Department of Biomedical Sciences.

That’s the point we want to get to, but no-one has ever done this before.

In the second project, researchers are in the early stages of work to develop and test a new contraceptive vaccine that could permanently sterilize a mare after a single dose, circumventing the challenges of administering repeated doses for long-term fertility control.”

Also from the same article:

A longtime park volunteer and technician for the university’s research project, Marylu Weber, created the North Dakota Badlands Horse Registry with her husband in 2009.

The nonprofit adoption program partners with the park to assist with low-stress captures and with finding pre-screened homes for removed horses, thus avoiding the need for public auctions.

“Without intervention, it would be difficult to keep up with the captures and adoptions of so many horses,” Weber said. “CSU’s research is very important to the management of the park’s horses and has huge potential to impact wild horse management all over the world.”

Weber, who has been keeping track of the park’s horses since she began riding there in the 1980s, helps train new technicians on how to find and identify the horses in the study, take measurements, and collect data.”

I suppose that knowing that these nonprofit groups were formed to advocate for the wild horses in TRNP, I often wondered how they seemed to be ok with CSU injecting the pesticide GonaCon into the wild horses they proclaimed to advocate for.  I also often wondered if/when their organizations became aware that CSU’s ultimate goal was to create a dosage of GonaCon as a method of birth control that would permanently sterilize mares.  It would seem by Marylu’s comments for this article, that answer would be at least 2016.

Then something else came across my computer screen last week in a web search:

This is Marylu Weber’s Linkedin profile.  You will see that it was created in 2008 and she lists her experience as a Field Data Researcher at Colorado State University/Theodore Roosevelt National Park since 2008. 

CSU began their study at TRNP in 2009.


Then there is this from NDBH’s website:

“The non-profit North Dakota Badlands Horse Registry was established to register, promote, appreciate and preserve the wild horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota that are unique to the area.

The North Dakota Badlands Horse Registry was granted 501 (C) (3) status on 11/12/09.”

Again, CSU began experimenting on the wild horses in TRNP in 2009. 

That seems like quite the string of coincidences, doesn’t it?

Marylu has been a staunch advocate for CSU and their “very important research” and also TRNP park management’s methods of culling the horses.  She has admittedly and very vocally proclaimed that her organization does not question the park because, after all, the park DOES know what they are doing.

We also agree the park knows EXACTLY what they are doing to the wild horses entrusted in their care.  

Now we know why the existing nonprofit groups and their members do not speak out about the experimentation and lack of management for the wild horses of TRNP.  They are apparently all on the same side. 

Working under the guise of their nonprofits, along with Colorado state University and Theodore Roosevelt National Park management they have worked hard to not only eradicate the wild horses of TRNP, by working hard over the years to help TRNP park management realize their wild horse goal of 35-60 horses, from the current herd size of 180.  CSU, with the financial backing of the BLM, can now take their years of “research” out to the western range and apply their proven sterilization methods to wild horses everywhere. 

We hope this answers the questions on why we refuse to work with organizations such as these and why Chasing Horses Wild Horse Advocates will never stop our advocacy work for the wild horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. 

These wild horses need someone who is actually on their side. 

2 thoughts on “Study in North Dakota explores fertility control in mustangs

  1. It’s about time an organization is truly dedicated to helping the horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park instead of following a money trail for personal gain and/or advancement. The history and health of these horses should be preserved, not destroyed and forgotten.

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