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These Guns Can Save Wild Horses and Burros!

These Guns Can Save Wild Horses and Burros!

As wild horse and burro populations face horrifying helicopter roundups, removals, holding, and sale to slaughter by the U.S. government, there is an urgent need for humane population control methods. Shooting darts loaded with a fertility control vaccine into the hips of female horses and burros is the most humane way to manage wild herd populations. 

The independent, non-profit Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Montana produces a wildlife contraceptive called the porcine zona pellucida (PZP) and trains people how to use it properly. The primary method of delivering this humane fertility control vaccine to wild horse herds is by dart rifles. 

We sent our Wild Horse & Burros Campaigner, Ginger Fedak, to one of the Center's 3-day training and certification classes to learn the science behind the vaccine and to become certified to administer it. Ginger and other participants learned the biological mechanisms behind this completely natural vaccine, which is simply a protein that triggers an immune response in the recipient and leads to the production of antibodies that interfere with fertilization for a temporary period. 

Attendees also learned the long history of studies proving both the safety and efficacy of the PZP vaccine. There was considerable “hands on” work, including learning about the different guns to choose from to deliver the darts at varied distances, and how to use them. 

In addition to learning how to administer the vaccine, identification and documentation are also critical to the success of a wild horse fertility control program. Horses must be definitively identified so the mares designated to receive the vaccination are darted. Records must be meticulously kept to preserve the genetic viability of the targeted herd, including photographs, notes, and regularly updated databases. 

In Defense of Animals is now armed with our best weapon to help wild equines in the field: PZP rifles. If you live near a wild horse herd, there are many ways to help! First, find out if there is a local advocacy group and get involved! If the group is not facilitating a fertility control program, see how you can help initiate one. If there are no advocacy groups in your area, now is the perfect time to start one! Wild horses and burros need our help, so please contact us for support and guidance!

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