This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected a proposal of putting mustangs on the endangered species list. The federal agency argued that North American “wild” horses are not quite wild and they stopped being native to the continent about 10,000 to 13,000 years ago when they went extinct.
Two conservationist groups launched the proposal last summer, but roughly this week the U.S. wildlife protection service managed to provide an answer after three months of investigation into the matter.
The Cloud Foundation and Friends of Animals were the two organizations requesting federal protection for the mustangs roaming free on the federal lands in ten U.S. states on the West coast. The groups are concerned that the beautiful animals may soon go extinct again with no federal protection.
Yet, regulators claim that mustangs living in the U.S. are not wild or native species because they were introduced in America by Spanish explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries. Moreover, some of them are former domesticated horses that escaped captivity or they were set free by their masters, regulators argue.
But the petitioners argue that genetic evidence show that the species is distinct from domesticated horses and have evolved entirely differently over the course of millennia. Yet, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded after a 3-month investigation that wild horses are no more than horses.
Regulators wrote in their report that they found no significant “behavioral differences” between the two species of horses living in North America. As a result they cannot benefit from protection under the Endangered Species Act, the agency said Tuesday.
Yet, conservationists are set to continue the fight. They noted that the situation of mustangs is critical because they faced a 40 percent loss in their habitat since president Nixon had signed off the Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act into law.
But the Bureau of Land Management doesn’t buy the idea of North America’s mustangs being feral species. The bureau argues that the beasts are nothing more than descendants from domesticated horses that now roam free due to various reasons. The BLM said that science had spoken – North American wild horses went extinct over 10,000 years ago and they never came back.
Additionally, the horses brought to Americas by European explorers do not count as native, wild horses. But the Friends of Animals group thinks otherwise.
“These horses are different, they are treated different under the law, they behave differently and there’s some evidence they are genetically different,”
pointed out the group’s attorney in a recent interview.
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