IPFS Vin Suprynowicz

The Libertarian

Vin Suprynowicz

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Up Montana way, a popular postcard shows a bedraggled group of men shuffling down out of the mountains, bedecked in a wide array of splints, casts, and bandages. This, the wide-eyed tourist is informed, is one of the region’s “Mountain Lion Artificial Insemination Teams.”

It’s good for a chuckle. Apparently no one is supposed to laugh, though, at the announced plans of the Bureau of Land Management in Billings to maintain a steady population of 85 to 105 adult wild horses in the Pryor Mountains of Montana and Wyoming by putting 24 of the older mares on birth control.

The operation, which involves an annual “two-shot application, delivered remotely,” has been under way in more limited form since 2001.

There’s been a drought, and the range can’t support the number of horses now on it, explains a BLM spokeswoman. The agency also plans to put up for adoption another 22 horses by baiting the animals with mineral blocks, a tactic that is expected to raise less environmentalist ire than a dreaded “roundup.”

Needless to say, the green extreme has found a way to object, anyhow. The target herd size is too small to ensure genetic viability, complains “wild horse advocate” Virginie Parant.

“Nature has shown it can balance predator-prey,” adds a perturbed Ginger Kathrens, identified by The Associated Press as a filmmaker and executive director of The Cloud Foundation. “Instead, BLM gets their dart guns ready.”

OK, now we know what “delivered remotely” means. (Hey, it sounds far wiser than trying to outfit the stallions with prophylactics of a more old-fashioned sort, which might render those postcards less of a gag, after all.)

We’re just trying to envision what “predators” Ms. Kahrens envisions “preying” on a herd of wild horses. Three come to mind. The BLM could import some really big African lions -- a couple of prides of those things might not mind eating some horse meat. And hiking the area would surely become more of an adventure.

Option two? Certainly there are some grizzlies big enough to prey on horses, under some circumstances. And there are indeed grizzlies in the area -- though the actual plains grizzly is extinct, and if their smaller cousins were getting the job done, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Does Ms. Behrens favor artificial enhancement of grizzly she-bear fertility? Is she volunteering?

Finally, of course, there’s the top predator. The cheapest solution would be to issue a given number of permits for the main remaining predator of this invasive, non-native species -- man -- to stage roundups and haul the surplus “prey” away, at which point many of them would end up falling “prey” to supermarket customers in Belgium.

We wonder which of these three courses the advocates of a more natural “predator-prey” solution actually favor.

No one wants to see the wild horses driven to extinction, though someone should mention that cattle can graze the same lands at somewhat greater economic benefit.

But someone once predicted the British Empire, increasingly inhabited by an odd panoply of crackpot do-gooders with bizarre agendas, would not so much collapse as “sink giggling into the sea.”

Is there nothing the federal government deems unworthy of our tax dollars? When the treasuries finally run dry in Washington City, will anyone remember to call off the Wild Horse Birth Control Squads of Montana, or will they still be out there on patrol, 40 years from now, like the last surviving Japanese soldiers stranded on some Pacific jungle isle?