Nearly 200 feral horses were found dead, half-buried in mud in a stock pond on tribal land in Arizona, according to a press release from the Navajo Nation.
The horses died from causes related to drought and famine brought on, at least in part, from overpopulation. The Navajo Nation houses anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000 feral horses — horses that either used to be domesticated or are descendants of once-domestic stock.
It is not clear on the number of feral horses the Navajo Nation can adequately house.
“This tragic incident exemplifies the problem the Navajo Nation faces in an overpopulation of feral horses,” Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said in a statement. “There is a process for round-ups, and it begins with the local chapter. What they need is a resolution requesting a round-up, which prompts the assistance of the Navajo Nation and BIA. Help is there, but they have to ask for it.”
“These animals were searching for water to stay alive. In the process, they, unfortunately burrowed themselves into the mud and couldn’t escape because they were so weak,” Vice President Jonathan Nez said.
The Navajo Nation’s overpopulation of feral horses is a separate issue from overpopulated wild horse and burro herds on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or U.S. Forest Service (USFS).
Both agencies have a severe problem in managing land and forests that contain as many as five or six times the amount of animals the land can sustainably support, BLM National Wild Horse and Burro Program Public Affairs Specialist Jason Lutterman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The BLM is responsible for managing the largest share of wild horses and burros. An estimated 83,000 animals live across all BLM managed wild horse and burro territory. Another 46,000 are housed in BLM holding pens, put there after the animals are culled from severely overcrowded populations. The USFS looks after an estimated 10,000 wild horses and burros.
Navajo Nation representatives could not be reached for comment.
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