Feral horse hunt on Navajo Nation cancelled

President Russell Begaye oppposes horse hunting for population control; advocates for alternative management plan

Horses wait in a cement culvert along Highway 160 for a Navajo Nation agriculture horse trailer after a roundup near Kayenta. Submitted photo

Horses wait in a cement culvert along Highway 160 for a Navajo Nation agriculture horse trailer after a roundup near Kayenta. Submitted photo

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The growing population of feral horses on the Navajo Nation is a problem that cannot be ignored, but it will not be resolved with a horse hunt, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said.

“We understand the concerns of the people,” Begaye said. “We know the issue of horses is an emotional one with strong feelings on all sides. My administration will not condone a horse hunt for controlling the overpopulation of feral horses. But, we do need to implement a management plan to preserve and protect Navajo land for future generations.”

The president’s statement comes on the heels of a 2018 Horse Hunt Proclamation issued last week by the Navajo Department of Fish and Wildlife. That proclamation has been rescinded and the hunt has been canceled. Fish and Wildlife will pursue alternate methods of feral horse management.

According to a 2016 study conducted by Fish and Wildlife, there are as many as 50,000 feral horses on the Navajo Nation, with heavy populations in remote locations and winter range areas like the Carrizo Mountains. One horse consumes approximately 32 pounds of forage and 10 gallons of water per day. The Navajo ecosystem cannot support the number of feral horses that exist.

“The numbers are extreme when considering the amount of overgrazing that currently exists and the negative impact it has on the livestock and wildlife in the various ecosystems on the Nation,” said Vice President Jonathan Nez.

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