The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rejected a proposal to list the North American wild horse as a threatened or endangered species. Friends of Animals and the Cloud Foundation filed a petition last summer seeking protection for thousands of mustangs they say are threatened with extinction on federal lands across 10 western states.
Conservationists, including wildlife ecologist Craig Downer argue the horses constitute a distinct population segment that has evolved as a native species over thousands of years separate from domesticated horses.
“There’s abundant evidence that the entire horse family is of North American origin, and it’s, as a matter of fact, one of the most ancient, long-standing presences,” Downer said. “Even though they say the horse disappeared here, there is a lot of evidence that there were pockets of horses that actually survived up until shortly before Columbus and then with the re-introduction those could have interbred.”
But the Fish and Wildlife Service concluded in a new 90-day finding, refusing to study the matter further that, effectively, a horse is a horse.
It said the petitioners failed to prove that the behavior of the wild mustang herds is significantly different from that of domestic horses.