Is America's wild horse an invasive species?


From: LA Times
By: Karin Klein

Pleistocene, shmeistocene. To lovers of North America’;s wild horses, the mustangs link to their Ice Age relatives is far more important than their descent from introduced, domesticated horses.

The fans of today’s wild horses are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the animals as an endangered species because open rangeland is reduced and also less fit to graze. Cattlemen see the horses as pests who take up public land that would be better used for grazing herds; they favor continuing to herd them up and ship them…anywhere. Many environmentalists see both the cattle and the horses as invasive species that compact the land in unnatural ways, making it hard for native plants to grow, and that take up what should be habitat for wildlife.

Horses originated in North America but went extinct from the continent some 10,000 to 12,000 years ago—though some made it across the land bridge to Eurasia, where they developed into the zebra and the horse we know today. Then in the 1600s, the Spanish brought domesticated horses to the continent. Some of those went wild—thus the current wild horse.

POST DATE: 07/12/2014