Dedicated Activists Want to Save National Park Wild Horses

Dedicated Activists Want to Save National Park Wild Horses

The historic herd of wild horses in North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park is threatened with eradication. These genetically unique wild horses have been beloved for decades by park visitors. Previously the park referred to them as wildlife but has recently reclassified them as "livestock" so it can justify their complete removal.  

Earlier this year, we urged you to speak out for the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) wild horses. Despite thousands of emails from In Defense of Animals supporters, the mustangs are now entangled in a fight for their very existence! Babies have been captured, separated from their families, and sold. However, one determined couple is fiercely working in the field to save and protect this extraordinary wild herd.  

Chris Kman moved to southwestern North Dakota with her husband Gary in 2016, planning to return to Illinois after two years. However, they discovered the national park, practically in their backyard, and fell in love with the park and the wild horses living within its boundaries. They chose to stay and make the area their home.  

Chris and Gary started asking park staff about the questionable practices around the wild horses, like the removal of babies every year and the concerning experimental management approach being taken on the herd using an under-researched fertility control method called GonaCon, which was later shown to cause sterility. 

Sterile animals in a wild equine herd greatly reduce the genetic viability of the herd causing problems and even, potentially, a non-reproducing herd.  The fertility control method that is effective, humane, and reversible is PZP. Reversibility is extremely important to retain good balance in a wild equid herd.  

PZP has been a proven success when it has been used correctly. It should be administered in wild horse areas like TRNP instead of the potentially sterilizing agent, GonaCon.

The Kmans started a Facebook page in 2017 to share their photos and stories of the park, which has now grown to 85,000 followers from all around the world. In 2019, they opened a store in Medora near the park and obtained a commercial use permit (CUA) to take visitors into the park to see the horses. 

Since 2017 they have been regularly meeting with the park, asking questions and trying to understand why it was doing what it was doing and why there was no current management plan for the horses. 

As their questions kept coming regarding TRNP's dubious practices, the park suddenly announced in 2022 that it was working on a new management plan. This action by the park was meant to circumvent any potential lawsuits over some of the wrongful things that were found to be happening.   

The management plan that TRNP devised would eradicate the beloved wild horse herd. Chris and Gary have enlisted the help of state legislators who passed a resolution to keep the wild horses in the park. These legislators realize that wild horses bring many tourists to the state; however, a resolution is not binding and cannot change the park's decision. 

Chris and Gary organized a large rally that we supported to generate support for the park's wild horses, whose ancestors Teddy Roosevelt himself admired when he lived in the area. The "Bully Pulpit Rally" was held July 12-13 in Medora, ND. 

Chris arranged a private meeting on July 12, 2023, with National Park Service (NPS) Regional Director Bert Frost and TRNP staff. She was allowed to bring three other people with her. Chris chose our In Defense of Animals Wild Horse and Burro Senior Campaigner, a Program Specialist from American Wild Horse Campaign, and the North Dakota State House Majority Leader to accompany her and give input in the meeting. Our formal comments were submitted to the park for its Scoping Notice and reiterated at our private meeting. 

After the comments for the Scoping Notice are evaluated, the Park will come out with an Environmental Assessment (EA) plan of action. Public comments will again be collected before the final Decision Record (DR) will be made. Of course, we hope that the Park will change the plan options to include a final one of keeping the wild horses and managing them scientifically and humanely.

Thank you for your generous donations which allow us to keep fighting for the horses alongside amazing animal activists on the ground like Chris and Gary. 

Mustangs and burros have never been in a worse position than now. Please join us in our fight to save wild horses!