In response to my June 4th, 2012 post "Salt River Wild Horses in Peril":
“Wild” Horses in Arizona are all animals abandoned by previous ranch operations or simply dropped in the desert by people who did not want them anymore. A few populations actually have documented lineage back to Spanish settlement. The only bona fide herd that I know of that could connect to the era of Father Kino is the herd that was acquired by the US Fish and Wildlife Service when they purchased Arivaca Cienega. Those horses were dispersed to owners and locations (including Jane Fonda) that were protecting the “Spanish Horse” bloodlines. (Some of them were at Pioneer Village north of Phoenix for a number of years). These horses had the lineage papers dating from Spanish settlement in Mexico and Arizona kept by the owner of the Arivaca Cienega and Ranch that had been handed down through the generations of her family. So even those animals were not “wild” in that she knew they were hers.
Most “wild” horses trace back to ranches or the U.S. Cavalry. In more recent time various native American tribes have embraced horses as symbols of their heritage, including the Salt River Maricopa-Pima Indian Community and they do manage “wild” horse herds on their lands.
Unfortunately-there seems to be a much better campaign for protecting horses and elevating their status to “Wild” and “Free Roaming”, similar to the efforts to legitimize feral cat colonies, than there is for native wildlife habitat protection.
There are specific locations in Arizona and elsewhere in the West that are designated as “wild” horse or burro populations protected and managed under the U.S. Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act. The Salt and Verde Rivers are not one of those locations. I support the USFS removing these animals.
Horses and burros are incredibly damaging to the riparian habitats. Horses strip the bark from trees, killing them. Sonoran desert plants did not evolve defenses or adaptations to equines, as the last equine native to the Americas was eohippus in the Pleistocene- a very small animal. I have seen the washes where these animals roam degrade over the past 20 years.
Vashti "Tice" Supplee
Director of Bird Conservation
3131 South Central AvenuePhoenix, Arizona 85040