State still planning on using birth control on wild horses

Birth control will still be part of the Nevada Department of Agriculture's program to manage wild horses on the Virginia Range - just not at this time.

Ed Foster, spokesman for the department, said it wasn't being used on horses now because the department has not been able to keep a supply.

"We've used contraception in the past, and it's currently part of our management program," he said. "We will be using it in the future, but we are not using it now."

He said the mares that the birth control drugs were used on over the past few years are still feeling effects from the contraceptives and not producing foals.

Dr. David Thain, veterinarian for the University of Nevada, Reno, College of Agriculture, said he thought the products were very effective.

"Back in 1999 we started to look for some better tools to manage populations," he said.

Thain, who is a past state veterinarian with the Department of Agriculture, said that in the beginning, the only birth control available would only last one year, and it was not feasible to inject the horses annually.

He looked into research done at the National Wildlife Services lab in Fort Collins, Colo., and some work done at Penn State University, and identified two other products that are usable for long-term equine birth control.

One is a Canadian product called Spayvac, which Thain said is no longer available commercially, and the other is an Gonacom, an Australian product that is available on a conditional basis but requires an Environmental Protection Agency permit.

Both products work for three years on horses, Thain said.

"Back in 2005, we did a field trip up there where we wanted to look at what some of the behavioral aspects were," he said. "That research has been complete and it's being compiled. There were no obvious bad effects."

Thain said data was still being collected on how well the products worked.

He said mares do better from a nutritional standpoint when they are given birth control because they are not raising a foal, thereby decreasing the impact on the range, "which was the long-term project."

"I think it's a good tool and it's a good management tool," he said. "It probably is not the panacea for everything, but it's a good tool."

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or call 881-7351.

If you go

WHAT: "Meet the Mustangs and Horse Adoption"

WHEN: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

WHERE: S&W Feeds and Supply, 2292 S. Carson St., (just south of the Railroad Museum.)

FACTS: The adoption will be walk-up, first come, first served from

qualified applicants. This is an adoption and adopters must meet basic

BLM/Nevada Department of Agriculture minimum requirements. Volunteers will be on hand to answer questions about the horses and to show a video of the 55 horses recently released in Storey County.

CALL: 246-7636


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