Sandoval Signpost


An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

Wild Horses

Birth control sought for Placitas horses

Livestock Board denies WHOA application to administer horse contraceptive

—Ty Belknap

Last month, the New Mexico Livestock Board (NMLB) denied the Placitas-based Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA) authorization to dart free-roaming horses with the porcine zona pelucida (PZP) immune contraceptive. [See letters criticizing this action in the Gauntlet, this Signpost.] At the same time, the NMLB approved the distribution of PZP for animals on federal land covered by the Wild Horse and Burro Act. According to NMLB, the rapidly growing herds of stray horses in Placitas do not fall under this designation.

Dave Fly DVM of the NMLB told the Signpost that the manufacturer of PZP had not complied with NMLB regulations, which require the drug—classified as a pesticide—to be approved by the NM Department of Agriculture. Furthermore, he said that his department cannot allow individuals and organizations such as WHOA to administer a drug to animals without first registering and taking responsibility for these animals. Fly said that once these conditions are met, the NMLB will gladly authorize a program that would include PZP in an effort to control stray horse population.

“However,” Fly went on to say, “PZP alone is not the solution to the problem. Dart a horse once and you will have a hard time getting close enough to do it again. The horses would have to be controlled and counted. They would have to be managed. Even if you hold the population at current levels, say up to two hundred horses in the Placitas area, you will still have two hundred stray horses for up to twenty years.

“Whatever the real count, a growing number of people recognize that there are, or will be, too many horses. They overgraze, present a nuisance, and threaten public safety on the roadways.” said Fly. “You’re going to have to cull.”

Wikipedia defines culling as “the process of removing breeding animals from a group based on specific criteria. For livestock and wildlife alike, culling usually implies the killing of the removed animals.” Therein lies a major impediment to addressing the problem. It is a devisive issue. Most people in Placitas don’t want to have the horses killed. All ten of New Mexico’s sanctuaries for unwanted, abused, and stray horses are over capacity. If horses are rounded up and turned over to the NMLB, they may ultimately be shipped to Mexico for slaughter. No agency is authorized to do so. [See Sandoval County Sheriff Office statement, next, this Signpost.] Governor Martinez does nothing to support control of horse population, yet opposes humane slaughter in-state.

Dr. Fly described the Placitas issue as a sad situation: “I’ve worried for years that it’s going to take a tragedy, like somebody getting killed on the road, before people decide to take action. The problem can get a lot worse, especially in this drought. On some Navajo lands there is no grass left, and stray horses get aggressive and increasingly harmful to wildlife.”

Fly said that, even in the face of many obstacles and lack of funding, the NMLB has not ignored the issue. They participate in regular meeting with NM Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte. Ultimately, though, Fly said that the community needs to come together to find a solution.

Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office defines role in Placitas stray horse issues

Signpost Staff                                                                                     

Last month, Zane (Cosmos) Dohner emailed the following questions to the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office regarding the Placitas free-roaming horse issue:

“My curiosity is about which regulations, laws, statutes will come into action and govern in this situation: an owner of property in Placitas corrals wandering horses that he does not own on his property and, as instructed in advance by the New Mexico Livestock Board, notifies an NMLB Inspector of the location where the horses are confined; the Inspector arrives at the Placitas property with a horse trailer, determines that the horses do not have brands, and loads the horses for transport away from Placitas; individuals or members of an organization such as Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA) come to the location and protest that the horses cannot be removed by the State of New Mexico because their management is a responsibility of the United States Bureau of Land Management; and the individual or member of a group opposing the impending removal of the horses telephones in that complaint to the Sandoval Sheriff Office.

“I would like to know what will be the course of action when Inspector meets Sheriff near the horses in the horse trailer.

“I have not located this fact-based, law-based information in our Sandoval Signpost, where it needs to be added to on-going discussions about the wandering horses of Placitas.”

Undersheriff Karl Weise emailed the following response to Dohner and gave permission to reprint to the Signpost:

“Sheriff Wood and I came into office in January, 2011, and we were approached shortly thereafter by a representative from WHOA, who wanted us to support their efforts to have “wild” horses removed from the Placitas area. It was my understanding at the time that WHOA had filed a civil action against the BLM to force them to take responsibility for the horses because they were “wild” and therefore protected by statute. In reality—and I believe the decision in the lawsuit supported this—the horses are feral horses and no particular person or entity is currently claiming ownership. Wikipedia definition: a feral horse is a free-roaming horse of domesticated ancestry. As such, a feral horse is not a wild animal in the sense of an animal without domesticated ancestors. We informed WHOA at that time that the Sheriff’s Office had neither the resources nor the funding to round up stray horses and provide for their upkeep. We told her that we would not interfere with any humane efforts that they took to deal with the horses, but at the same time, we could not legally participate in the capture or removal of the horses.

“The WHOA folks rounded up several of the horses on one occasion and corralled them on private property in Placitas with the intent to have them shipped to Colorado where they would be released to roam free. A concerned Placitas resident trespassed onto the property and released the horses from the corral. The end result was criminal charges filed on the resident for criminal trespass. Prior to the case going to court, a representative of WHOA decided to withdraw her request to prosecute and the charge was dismissed.

“This is a controversial and emotional issue for residents of the Placitas area. Many want the horses removed from the area because they are a nuisance and sometimes create a traffic hazard, while others enjoy the idea of “wild” horses roaming the area and feel that it adds to the ambiance of living in a semi-rural neighborhood.

“Currently, the Sheriff’s Office has no interest in the horses or their ultimate destiny. When we get a call that the horses are on Highway 165 or other roadway and creating a traffic hazard, we will respond and chase them off of the roadway. Unfortunately, even though we are concerned about the safety of motorists and do not want to see the horses unnecessarily injured, we are limited legally and practically in our response. That being the case, the Sheriff’s Office would not intervene if you were to capture the horses and turn them over to the NM Livestock Board Inspector, except as necessary to keep the peace if a conflict were to develop. However, we would be obligated to serve or enforce any court order that might be issued by a relevant court concerning the handling of the horses. To my knowledge, no such order exists at this time.

“By copy of this email, I am instructing Sergeant Mills to inform the supervisory staff of the Sheriff’s Office about this issue, and that our response will be one of non-intervention, except to keep the peace or enforce relevant law if a criminal act is being committed by any participant.

“Please feel free to contact Sheriff Wood or me with any further questions that you may have.”

Placitas Recycling Center to recycle phone books

—Robin Brandin

New phone books are coming out, again. The Placitas Recycling Association (PRA) has announced plans to temporarily accept old phone books at the Placitas Recycling Center over the next couple months as the new books are delivered to Placitas residents. Visitors to the center can ask any volunteer on duty where to deposit the books.

While phone book collection is a temporary service provided at the Placitas Recycling Center, the center accepts the following materials on a permanent basis: cardboard, newspaper, mixed paper, office paper, aluminum, No. 1 (PETE) and No. 2 (HDPE) plastic containers, ink cartridges, rechargeable batteries, cell phones, and bagged polystyrene peanuts. Visitors are asked to separate the materials they bring in so they can be deposited in separate trailers.

The Placitas Recycling Center is open every Saturday morning from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m., except on four posted holidays per year. Typically, the center is busiest between 10:30 and 11:00 a.m., so visitors are encouraged to come earlier to avoid having to wait in line to drop off their materials. The center is located on Highway 165 about a half mile east of the I-25 interchange. For more information, visit the PRA website at

PNM customers set record, purchasing five million light bulbs

—Ryan Baca

PNM customers reached a huge energy efficiency milestone of five million compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) purchased through PNM’s energy efficiency residential program. Customers saved a combined 33.7 million dollars. Five million CFL bulbs are enough to cover nine football fields.

The PNM discounted CFLs have already saved 302 million kWh in just over five years, which is enough energy to power almost 42,000 New Mexico homes for a year. But the savings don’t stop; those five million bulbs will save another 395 million kWh over their lifetime.

Because it is important for every residential customer to have access to these energy saving bulbs, PNM partnered with nearly 160 stores statewide. PNM residential customers automatically receive a discount on CFLs purchased at participating retailers.

To find out more about PNM’s energy efficiency rebates, visit or

Friends of Coronado Lecture Series addresses NM geology

—Gary Williams

On January 20, at 2:00 p.m., Dirk Van Hart, our popular geologist, will give a talk about the geology along old Rte. 44 (Hwy 550) from Bernalillo to Bloomfield, NM. Retired petroleum geologist, Van Hart lived a gypsy life working in Oklahoma, Texas, California, Guatemala, and Ecuador. When he moved to Albuquerque in 1986, he did independent contract geological explorations in Italy and Belize. His last project was a team effort for Sandia Labs to characterize the geology of Kirtland Air Force Base.

To add to your growing knowledge about the geology that created the Land of Enchantment, his talk will be in terms easily understood by a general audience and will give a greater understanding of how the landscape took shape and how it attracted the native population thousands of years ago. Come early since seating is limited and no admittance will be permitted after seating capacity is reached per the Fire Marshal. $5 for adults; students and members of the Friends of Coronado State Monument are free. The event will be held at the DeLavy House (Sandoval County Historical Society Museum), 1.7 miles west of the I-25 exit 242, off Hwy 550. Take the road north between the I-HOP restaurant and Warrior Fuel station. For more information, contact Gary Williams, program chairman, at 792-4851 or visit:

Top of Page

Ad Rates  Back Issues  Contact Us  Front Page  Up Front  Animal News   Around Town  Sandoval Arts   Business Classifieds  Calendar   Community Bits  Community Center  Eco-Beat  Featured Artist  The Gauntlet Health  Community Links  Night Sky  My Wife and Times  Public Safety  Real  People  Stereogram  Time Off  Youth