Population Densities on Western Rangelands

One of the speakers at the WHB Advisory Board meeting last month presented these statistics on wild horses and burros in 2018:

  • 82,000 animals at beginning of the year with over 11,000 removed
  • 27 million acres set aside for grazing

Also presented at the meeting were some stats on livestock in 2017.  The BLM livestock page provides the available land.

  • 8.8 million AUMs consumed
  • 155 million acres available for grazing

The WHB data yield a stocking rate of 2.6 animals per thousand acres (71,000 divided by 27,000,000 times 1000).

The aimed-at stocking rate for WHB is one animal per thousand acres (27,000 divided by 27,000,000 times 1000).  This will be an indicator of a successful program, in the eyes of the public-lands ranchers and their allies at the BLM, along with many of the wild horse advocates.


The livestock data yield 1.5 million cow/calf pairs on western rangelands (per previous post), for a stocking rate of 19.4 animals per thousand acres (3,000,000 divided by 155,000,000 times 1000).

The livestock population target is 2 million cow/calf pairs (per previous post), which yields an aimed-at stocking rate of 25.8 animals per thousand acres (4,000,000 divided by 155,000,000 times 1000).  This is another indicator of a ‘successful’ program.

So, if you’re talking about wild horses, public lands can only support one of them per thousand acres.  If you’re talking about domestic cattle, the range can support 26 of them per thousand acres.  In some cases it’s the same land!

This casts a long shadow over the concept of Appropriate Management Levels (AMLs), which supposedly represent the carrying capacity of the land.  In view of these results, they only denote forage consumption the ranchers are willing to tolerate.  They should be renamed Acceptable Forage Losses (AFLs)—the number of horses for a given area that won’t rob too much of the ranchers’ birthright.

Also keep in mind that many wild horse advocacy groups, large and small, agree with the overpopulation narrative, and that is the basis of their fertility control efforts.

They’re not friends of the horses.

RELATED: They’re All Starving, Public-Lands Ranching: How Bad Is It?

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