ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — A group that advocates for the protection of free-roaming horses in Placitas has asked federal officials to help the group confront public safety concerns about animals straying on the roads.
The Wild Horse Observers Association also has offered to help administer a contraceptive to curb the growth of the horse population, and to remove and relocate horses that are at risk of a high-speed collision, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/ZVqHqT ).
Last month, a vehicle collision killed a horse on state Highway 165 in Placitas, prompting Sandoval County Commissioner Orlando Lucero to call for some kind of action to forestall further horse, or potentially, human fatalities. Some residents have estimated there are about 100 free-roaming horses in the area.
Donna Hummel, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which was contacted by the horse advocacy group, said agency officials are committed to community efforts to resolve the concerns, but the agency doesn't have jurisdiction over the horses.
She said the agency has used contraceptives on horse herds it manages, but that approach wouldn't address the immediate problem. She said agency officials will contact the state Livestock Board, the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association and local tribes to see if they can help offer solutions.
Patience O'Dowd, president of the Wild Horse Observers Association, said her group has been trying for more than two years to get permission to use the immuno-contraceptive PZP to limit the horse population.
Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick, director of the nonprofit Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Montana, which produces PZP, said the advocacy group's members have been certified to use the product, which received Environmental Protection Agency approval last year.
The contraceptive was also recently registered for use in New Mexico, according to state Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Katie Goetz.
EPA designated it a pesticide, she said, requiring purchasers and users to have a dealer's license.
O'Dowd recently contacted state Veterinarian Dave Fly at the Livestock Board again, asking what her group would need to do to obtain PZP and use it.
Fly responded in an email May 2 saying the advocacy group would need approval from the Agriculture Department, but he added that "a written agreement with the legal owners of any animals that are to be treated must be in place."
Goetz said no pesticide should be applied without the consent of the owner.
The question of who owns the Placitas free-roaming horses remains unanswered. Though some residents provide the horses with food and water, no one claims them.
The BLM says the horses don't qualify as "wild" under a 1971 federal law that requires the agency to manage them.
San Felipe Pueblo leaders have denied assertions that the horses belong to the tribe.
The State Game and Fish Department is responsible for wildlife like deer and elk, but not the Placitas horses.
"We would probably consider them the same as feral pigs," department spokesman Dan Williams said.
Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com