Wild horses begin contraception at San Felipe Pueblo

San Felipe Pueblo, N.M., Oct. 21, 2014 -- Female horses at the San Felipe Pueblo in New Mexico have started receiving a contraceptive vaccine to safely and humanely control the historic herd’s population.

The vaccine used, PZP, has a long record of success in other U.S. horse herds and has been used for decades in zoo animals. More recently, it’s been successful in controlling populations of bison on Catalina Island in California, and elephants in Africa.

“Safely managing the population of the herd is vital to keeping it healthy,” said Ricardo Ortiz, land management specialist. “PZP is safe and easy to administer and we’re confident, based on its success in other herds that it will help the San Felipe horses to thrive.”

The Pueblo of San Felipe will employ PZP in accordance with the recommendations of a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, and in accordance with the non-profit Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Mont., which produces the vaccine.

The San Felipe Pueblo is located in the scenic Sandia Mountain Wildlife Corridor between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. PZP has been implemented, in part, in response to the recent drought and the long standing reduction of the area’s natural predators of the horse.  These contributing factors were also exacerbated by horse dumping experienced on the Pueblo in 2013.

PZP is injected in horses with a dart gun and is not permanent. If horses aren’t vaccinated again within two years, they can become pregnant again. This allows managers to fine-tune population growth as needed.

The vaccine doesn’t harm the animals, or interfere with existing pregnancies. It breaks down in the injected animal’s body and cannot pass into the environment or affect other horses

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Jay Kirkpatrick, at the Science and Conservation Center, in Billings, Mont.,  produces PZP and has worked with wild horse herds throughout the United States. He said the longest-running study of PZP is on the herd at Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland, where it has been used for 25 years.

“The National Park Service at Assateugue has been able to keep the herd there at target populations year after year, which is important, since over-population has a significant impact on the natural environment of the park,” Kirkpatrick said. No removals or adoptions have been required since the implementation of PZP.

Studies show that managing the population has improved health of the horses significantly. They have fewer health problems and are living longer as a result.

PZP is now used in more than 20 other horse management areas by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and other agencies. It also is used in 15 elephant reserves in Africa, on the Catalina bison herd and in urban deer on the East Coast among others.

The bison study on Catalina Island generated international coverage by the BBC, NPR, Los Angeles Times and other media outlets.

More information on animal fertility control is available at www.animalfertilitycontrolvaccine.org and www.sccpzp.org. Dr. Kirkpatrick is available for interviews.


More about the proposed San Felipe Wild Horse Sanctuary for Heritage Equine Eco-Tourism

The San Felipe Pueblo has repatriated bears from dangerous road crossings in New Mexico and is also working to preserve their wildlife corridors. The Pueblo is committed to preserving the native wildlife that has roamed its lands between their current location on the Rio Grande River to and from the Sandia Mountains, Ortiz, Santa Fe and Jemez Mountains.

To this end the Pueblo is working to re-acquire the Placitas Area BLM lands, shown by all/earliest conquistador maps to be their own ancestral lands, in order to protect and preserve the wildlife and wild horse habitat of the beautiful Sandia Mountains, an important link of the Rock Mountain wildlife corridor.

Ricardo Ortiz, land management specialist
San Felipe Pueblo
Jay Kirkpatrick, PhD
Science and Conservation Center, Billings
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Information: Animal Fertility Control Vaccine
Learn more about managing wildlife with fertility vaccine