Cloud enjoys a bite of snow. He looks wonderful for spring when horses are at their leanest… not this year, as the range is in great shape. May 2005
Perspective on the Wild Horses: Interview with Ginger Kathrens
A week-old dun filly frolics during a thunderstorm on Tillet Ridge. June 2005
NHM: What are your experiences with wild horses?
Ginger: I have spent 11 years observing and filming equids around the world, but most of my time has been spent in the West, primarily with Cloud and his herd in the spectacular Pryor Mountains of Montana. I have produced the films and books about Cloud's life for PBS.
NHM: Do you consider them to be a native species, and why does this status matter?
Ginger: Yes. I believe that Native status is very important and should be accorded the mustang based on new discoveries of the E. lambei carcass as well as molecular biology and mitochondrial DNA revelations. If given this status - Native, and Endangered or at the very least Threatened - it would mean increased protections under law, and would perhaps mean they might be managed by an agency of the U.S. government that cares about the perpetuation of the species. BLM clearly is out to eradicate mustangs based on massive round ups that have taken most herds to less than viable status. The Native status would leverage more protections for these beleaguered animals.
Cloud and his family eat snow at the base of a cliff - their water source for now. May 2005
NHM:What can be done to help the wild horses?
1. Fencing, just in the past two decades, has limited the true wild-roaming
nature of these animals. Fences keep cattle and sheep in allotments
so that the government and the livestock permittees can keep track
of them on our public lands, and rotate them out of one allotment and
into another if necessary. I emphasize our public lands, by the way,
because these lands belong to all Americans, not just ranchers who
pay nearly nothing for the privilege of grazing their cattle and sheep
there. So, I would do away with cattle and sheep grazing in recognized
wild horse herd areas and take fencing down or open adequate routes
for travel and passage of the horses.
2. This must be coupled with the elimination of all predator hunting in wild horse herd areas. North American equids were traditionally preyed on by tigers, bears, and dire wolves in the late Pliocene and Pleistocene. Early humans hunted horses and were likely a factor in their extinction on the continent, though that theory is not proven. Perhaps remnant populations remained and mixed with newcomers re-introduced on the continent by the Spanish Conquistadores. In contemporary times (1500-present), horses were hunted by Grizzly bears, wolves, and mountain lions. Today, mountain lions are still present in most herd areas and wolves are near Cloud's range in Montana. Mountain lions have proven to be excellent foal predators and have kept the Montgomery Pass herd on the California/Nevada border in check for 25 years. In the Pryors where Cloud lives, mountain lions were keeping the herd in balance with their ecosystem until hunters took three cats this winter. You see the dilemma of hunting these cats while striving for a natural predator/prey relationship, free of round ups and infertility drugs.
Cloud's foals - the dark gray from Sitka and the sorrel from Velvet. BOTH foals, it turns out, are fillies.
Cloud's gray filly with her white boots and pasterns flashing. She is sturdy like her mother, Sitka. Cloud is in the background. June, 2005
3. The Burns Rider must be dealt with by Congress. Because of the
extreme prejudice against American mustangs by conservative and livestock-friendly
Senators and Congressmen and Congresswomen, overturning the Rider becomes
an uphill battle, but winnable, I believe. In the meantime, wild horses
over 10 are being rounded up right here in my home state of Colorado.
They are vulnerable to slaughter as you no doubt know. Many animal
welfare groups are working on the passage of an anti-slaughter bill
for all horses. This can pass, I believe, with a full-out effort on
the part of the bill's supporters, including the public sector.
Cloud courts Velvet as their filly lies nearby.
This is my opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of all wild horse supporters. I do believe these thoughts are embraced by the majority of people who want the wild horse to once again flourish on our rangelands. I invite you to visit our new non-profit foundation, The Cloud Foundation, at www.thecloudfoundation.org. Hope you will encourage others to visit the site and make a donation for the preservation of Cloud and his herd and other wild horse herds with unique genetics and history.
Natural Horse Magazine thanks Ginger Kathrens for her time, expertise, and perspective, and especially for her unwavering support of nature, and the wild horses.