Too many grazers, too little range. That’s the bottom line from the Bureau of Land Management about wild horses and burros. On Monday, the BLM put out a call for contractors to provide pasture for thousands of excess animals.

The agency is seeking free-roaming environments and care for wild horses removed from public lands across 14 western states, including the east side of Oregon. These types of agreements go back two decades, but what’s different now are the sheer size of the herds, said Deborah Collins of the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program.

“It was just kind of like the perfect storm. We increased gathers and adoption numbers went down,” she said.

The number of adopted wild horses plummeted after the Great Recession, then rose again in recent years, but there are still about 50,000 more equines grazing BLM land than managers recommend. About half the budget for the horse and burro program goes to holding costs associated with gathered horses, such as corralling and off-range contracts, Collins said. 

How to handle overpopulation has been tricky terrain for the BLM in recent years. The agency recently scrapped a controversial proposal to sterilize wild mares in Oregon.