Thursday, September 28, 2023

County May Ban Feeding Wild Horses


A proposed county ordinance that would ban the feeding of wild horses and other wildlife is drawing mixed reaction from the public.

The proposal would make it illegal to feed certain wildlife, excluding birds. It would apply to animals that fall into one of five taxonomic groups and would include bison, goats, sheep, oryx, American pronghorn, elk, deer and bears. 

But the proposal is aimed at banning feeding wild horses, especially in the Placitas area where horses are known to wander into neighborhoods and onto roads, causing a safety issue.

Last week, a second horse in less than a month was killed on NM 165. That was after the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office went before the County Commission to propose the new law after a horse was struck and killed on NM 165 in January.

“We have some bad human behavior,” Commissioner Katherine Bruch, who represents the area, said in a phone interview. “The horses tend to be north or east of the ‘S’ curves. But we have some people feeding them on the south side of 165, which is causing problems.”

Bruch said the commission is taking public input on the issue, so there could be changes to it before the commission takes a vote. But that could happen as soon as the commission’s March 8 meeting.

“We’ve had lots of suggestions and there will be some effort to incorporate those into the ordinance,” Bruch said.

As currently written, violators of the ordinance would be subject to 90 days imprisonment, a $300 fine, or both.

Residents could apply for a 30-day wildlife feeding permit issued by the Planning and Zoning director. The permit requires the applicant to identify where and what type of wildlife would be fed and a $10 fee.

The public comments the county has received so far have been mixed.

Some say speeders on NM 165 are part of the problem.

“We need more law enforcement for speeders and we need to ban the feeding of the horses to reduce the likelihood of vehicle incidents,” one woman said.

Several people agreed that reckless drivers on 165 need to be curbed. 

While another woman agreed reckless drivers are a problem, she said the proposal doesn’t address that and called it “misguided.”

“This punitive ordinance will do nothing to decrease the number of unsafe drivers,” she wrote. “Instead, we’ll still have all of the dangerous drivers, the horses will suffer, and the village may well lose one of the things that makes it so special to live here.”

Others think something needs to be done.

“The ban on feeding will not outright stop them from being present on the road but I do believe that their daily habits of traveling to certain residences will be greatly reduced and therefore will reduce the amount of time they are on the roads,” a woman wrote.

Yet another woman said she loves horses but… “I also love dogs, but do not want a pack of feral dogs roaming the streets of my community.”

And another woman said people feeding the horses has changed their behavior.

“If these wild horses are truly wild then STOP making them domesticated and dependent on us humans,” she wrote. “The horses are too many now for our land. Let them be. Stop feeding them. Stop domesticating them.”

While the County Commission contemplates the ordinance, the state Legislature is considering legislation that addresses free roaming horses. 

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Brenda McKenna, D-Bernalillo, and Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, attempts to address the overpopulation of wild horses.


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