Product Type: Science Feature
Author(s): Swann, E. and R. Osborn
Swann, E. and R. Osborn. 2000. Tracking a western legacy: The Wild Horse Identification and Management System (WHIMS). http://www.fort.usgs.gov/resources/spotlight/horse/.
This publication is available from the USGS Fort Collins Science Center .
The U.S. Congress passed The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 in an effort to protect, manage, and control wild horses and burros on public lands. The Act declared these populations to be "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West" and gave the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and USDA Forest Service responsibility for their management. Through its Wild Horse and Burro Program, the BLM manages more than 29,000 wild horses and burros roaming on 199 herd management areas across 10 western states. One management priority is ensuring healthy, genetically viable populations for the future. Wild horses in some herds can be uniquely identified by their overall body color, facial markings, and leg markings, which have been useful for research and management in selected herds. To review data on individual horses, managers rely on a combination of field notes, written descriptions, and photographs. This process can become cumbersome as extensive information is gathered. The BLM wanted a cost-effective way to catalog photographs and information on individual animals and then have this information easily retrieved and manipulated. As part of a cooperative effort between the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Fort Collins Science Center (FORT) and the BLM, FORT wildlife biologist Ron Osborn developed the Wild Horse Identification and Management System (WHIMS) to meet those needs.