Six thousand wild horses and burros roaming free on public land in the West will be killed in fiscal 1982, the Philadelphia Bulletin reported. A policy adopted by interior Secretary James Watt, outlined in a recent memo, calls for 11,000 of the estimated 70,000 mustangs and burros to be herded by helicopter and penned. The memo said about 5,000 of the penned animals will be adopted through the Bureau of Land Management's eight-year-old "Adopt-a-Horse" program, while the rest will be destroyed, according to the newspaper.
Robert Burford, director of the Bureau of Land Management and a Colorado rancher, started the plan, the newspaper said. The animals in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming have long been the object of complaints from ranchers, who say they compete with cattle and sheep for grazing space.
Last year, 8,500 of the 10,000 mustangs and burros collected were adopted. According to the newspaper, Mr. Burford claims the government spent $4.4 million to subsidize the adoption program last year.
The fee charged to adopt a wild animal has been changed from $25 to $200 for a horse and $75 for a burro -- certain to discourage adoption.