Posted by Texas Mustang Project on July 17, 2010
“Foaling period” – as defined by the BLM handbook – is March 1 thru June 30, meaning that 6 wks prior to March 1 is when foaling has the potential to begin and 6 wks after June 30 is when it is most likely all foals have been born. Essentially, this definition states that wild horse foals can be born from January 18 until August 14 with the birth rate at its peak between March 1 and June 30. By their own definition, BLM conducts gathers of wild horses utilizing helicopters at times of the year when there is potential for newborns to be involved.
The kicker here is this:
A foal is considered (by most Equine Specialists, and certainly this one) to be a “newborn” from 0-3 months. Age 3-6 months is a colt, 6-12 months a weanling, 12-24 months a yearling, so on and so forth.
August 14 plus 3 months would be November 14. That would leave November 15 thru January 17 – a few days more than 2 months – for BLM to gather wild horses without newborns. However, breeding season also begins from approximately March 1 to June 30, depending on the geographical location of the herd due to different dates for the spring season change to begin. This is also the reason for the wide range of potential birthing dates.
So if they gather from November 15 to January 17 there is potential to have pregnant mares included in the gather. First and second trimester pregnancy viability would be plausible, dependent upon the mare’s health. Third trimester pregnancy viability would be at a greatly increased chance of loss due to the growth spurts of the foal during this time – 65 to 67% of the growth occurs in the third trimester. This places the mare’s own body under a very heavy strain, requires up to three times the amount of caloric intake, and induces a physiological and biological state of conservation.
This state of conservation is an intentional reduction in the amounts of energy expended in order to preserve energy on the part of the mare. She is already at a disadvantage because of the winter climate change reducing the amount of forage available to her on the range. Therefore her conservation must be very well guarded. A gather is contradictory to this state of conservation. The consequences of such a contradiction have already been seen and proven.
Bottom line: gathering wild horses with a helicopter – or any other means that places the Equine under increased stress – no matter the time of year is going to consequences. These consequences can range from simple lameness that resolves itself over time to the death of an Equine. There is no time of the year that is not going to cause a Wild Equine to have negative physical, psychological and pathophysiological effects.