Brian Gewecke, Senior Environmental Specialist with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Community Development Department (CDD) Environmental Protection and Natural Resources (EPNR) Division, is hard at work taking care of everything on the Community that creeps, walks and flies, and this includes animals and plants. The Community takes great pride in the animals living on the Community, including the wild horses. One of the goals of the Range Management efforts in CDD/EPNR is to ensure enough food sources are available to the wild horses which have caused the Community to seek options related to adoption of the horse and contraception for the mares to ensure that the range is sustainable. Over the last five years, the population of the wild-horse herd has been reduced by more than half to a more manageable size, from 400 to 180.
Gewecke said that through a yearlong adoption process, the Community is able to donate horses to other tribes that currently do not have a wild-horse population or wish to expand their populations. The year-long adoption process allows the Community to ensure that the horses have a good home and are being treated well. “If you take care of the horses we will get along fine—and if you don’t, we will have a problem,” Gewecke explained. Gewecke said he loves his job and feels that caring for the horses is an important responsibility.
The Community is extremely progressive in its wild-horse management practices. It is one of only approximately a dozen wild horse management programs that use contraception to control the horse population.
“It is necessary to stop the mares from giving birth every year to prolong their lifespan and reduce/manage the Community’s horse population,” Gewecke explained. The contraceptive is administered through a veterinarian approved method.
I was able to witness the process recently, and the trusting relationship between Gewecke and the horses is phenomenal. It is hard to believe a wild horse can sense trust just as well as fear. To be in a horse pen with approximately 100 wild horses is an overwhelming experience. The stallions protect their mares, while the mares stay near to each other. First Gewecke must separate the aggressive stallions from the mares. To make a wild horse walk down the pathway into a new pen can be tricky, but Gewecke understands their behavior and can calmly and effectively get the horses where they need to be. As he moves the more aggressive stallions into separate pens, they call for their mares, but the process is fairly quick. As he administers the contraceptive, the injection enters the skin and immediately kicks back away from the horse. In one day of contraception deployment, 15 mares were injected. The effect lasts for a year.