Wendlandt begins as Wyoming BLM Horse Project lead
Cheyenne – With an interest in managing horses on the range since she was young, June Wendlandt of Kingman, Ariz. began working at the Wyoming BLM state office on June 23 as the Wyoming Wild Horse and Burro Program lead.
Wendlandt obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Biology from California University of Pennsylvania in 1998. After graduating, she began working as a veterinary technician in Pennsylvania.
She started her career with the BLM in Milwaukee, Wisc. at the Northeastern States BLM Field Office where she was a wild horse and burro specialist.
“I’ve been with the BLM for over 10 years,” says Wendlandt. “In the eastern states, I worked with the adoption arm of the program, and it gave me a fabulous background.”
After seven years in Milwaukee, she moved to Kingman, Ariz., again working as a wild horse and burro specialist. Following three years in Arizona, Wendlandt accepted the position as program lead for the Wyoming BLM Wild Horse Project.
The BLM horse program became of particular interest to Wendlandt as soon as she decided to study Wildlife Biology in college, and Wyoming was an ideal fit for Wendlandt, who says it has been her goal to manage horses on the range since she was a child.
“It was always a goal and one of my personal interests to study population dynamics, including population growth and suppression, as well as population studies,” explains Wendlandt.
For the Wyoming horse program, Wendlandt says, “We will continue to work on maintaining healthy herds and doing gathers as necessary. We will also continue to be progressive with fertility control.”
Progressive fertility control options include a continuation of the use of Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP), a vaccine used for birth control that works by influencing mares to produce antibodies to the membrane covering the egg, which is known as the zona pellucida. As the antibodies attach to the zona pellucida, sperm are prevented from fertilizing the egg, so mares will not conceive.
“We have a pilot program in the Red Desert, and we will see if fertility control has worked with the gather coming up this fall,” says Wendlandt.
She continues, “We are also looking to geld some horses and return them to the range.”
Wendlandt explains that these methods are part of a fertility control project using PZP that started in 2009, so there is still some fine-tuning that is necessary. Regardless, the benefits of fertility control are apparent.
“The horses are definitely healthier when they get a break from foaling,” says Wendlandt. “We are seeing slower population growth, which means we can go longer between gather cycles. Increasing time between gather cycles is better for the animals, the people involved and the budget.”
Controversy surrounds horse gathers, as well. Wendlandt emphasizes that the Wyoming BLM has given those concerned about gathers the opportunity to have their questions answered, as well as to attend the events.
“We will continue to do our best to gather horses safely and cautiousl,y and to do our job to the best of our ability,” says Wendlandt.
According to Wendlandt, Wyoming is working to maintain the appropriate management level for each herd management area (HMA) while making sure both the horses and range are healthy.
“Our biggest focus is getting enough money and public support to make that happen,” she explains.
Since she began working with the Wyoming BLM, Wendlandt says she has seen a number of good programs in place, which she will continue. Additionally, she has started working on the adoption schedule for next year and is committed to making sure the state has healthy horses and healthy rangeland.
“We have a national plan for maintaining wild horses, based on the Secretary of the Interior’s initiative. We have to wait until that gets finalized for the upcoming year to see what direction Secretary Salazar wants the horse program to go,” says Wendlandt.
“I’m really excited to be here,” says Wendlandt. “I am looking forward to the challenges ahead.”
Working with a new program and obtaining support from the public are among these challenges.
“I think they public is willing and starting to understand where we are coming from with wild horse management,” says Wendlandt.
The Wyoming Horse Program has 16 HMAs throughout the state, and manages for 2,490 to 3,725 horses in those areas.
“Obviously, there are more horses out there, so that’s why we manage for them,” says Wendlandt.
Wild horses are managed contingent to the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, in which Congress declared wild horses as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer symbols of the West.”
Management of the wild horse population maintains a thriving ecological balance in each HMA, according to the Wyoming BLM.
“This has been a wonderful realization of my career goals. The top of my career was to become the state lead of a program,” says Wendlandt. “I am very passionate about the program and am open to talking and discussing with anyone who is interested in what we are doing.”
Saige Albert is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.