NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – An Albuquerque-based company and New Mexico State University are teaming up to control the wild horse population in the state. Roch Hart, founder, and CEO of Wildlife Protection Management said he used to be a rancher and that wild horses can be a nuisance and difficult to control.
“There is a growing population of wild horses. Whether it be on federal, state, or private land. And there’s where I found my problem,” Hart said. “Because our horses are really wild. You really can’t get within 50 yards of these animals and the only methods were with a single shot rifle.”
So, Hart decided to come up with a humane and effective way to control the wild horse population and is working with NMSU to make it happen. “Most of the United States is in awe of these beautiful animals. So, trying to find the most humane way of doing this is what we’re trying to do,” said Hart.
The technology uses food as bait to bring the horses in and then delivers a remote dart with contraceptive in it. Video shows after getting the contraceptive, horses go right back to the food.
“It tells us that it’s just a minor inconvenience, something scared them a little bit, similar to a little bee sting. but the animals have responded, they keep coming back which is important because you need to do boosters. So the animals, they’re the ones that tell us whether this is going to work or not and it will work,” Hart said.
Through a $256,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, WPM will work with NMSU on the technology and track the data it is collecting. NMSU helped the company put the grant proposal together.
“This is a New Mexico small business. He had a really great idea. He didn’t know how he could get it funded because you know, biggest part of launching a business is, who’s going to provide funding? And we helped him find that funding, secure that funding, and now developing his idea based on that idea strain,” said Del Mackey, Senior Economic Developer at NMSU’s Arrowhead Center.
The contraceptive only lasts a limited amount of time and the horses can become fertile again in a few years. “We’re not trying to eliminate, but we’re trying to control the numbers to where humans and horses can live side by side along with the cattle and the deer and other wildlife,” said Hart.
So far WPM has microchipped 50 horses and about half of them have received the contraceptive. Hart said WPM and NMSU plan to work on facial recognition of the horses and getting a full count of the wild horse population in the state. For more information on the collaboration, visit hnews.nmsu.edu/2021/06/nmsu-agsprint-client-receive-grant-to-help-control-wild-horse-population.