Support for Mitigating Catastrophic Wildfire Damage and Environmental CWD Contamination Using Wild Horse Grazing
“Three seemingly unsolvable problems facing forest, range and wildlife managers are (1) increasing numbers and severity of wildfires, (2) the relentless spread of CWD, and (3) what to do about wild horses. What if a significant partial solution to all three is found in the so-called problem itself?
Prions are hardy. So if a horse eats possibly infected forage wouldn’t the prions then pass thru the horse and get back in to the landscape via horse manure? If it would still be there in the landscape, how would having wild horses then mitigate areas where the CWD exists.
Hello Ruben, it’s great to hear from you always.
Responding technically, as I understand it wild horses are:
1) Resistant to prion diseases, including CWD. This is an evolutionary trait that occurred over millennia in the presence of prions; and,
2) Wild horses sequester prions into their droppings where they are acted upon by the microbes (microbiome) contained in the bio-diverse dense horse droppings, thus reducing prion activity and sequestering them from herbivores that are generally grazing off the tops of vegetative cover.
Discussing this conversationally: As you know CWD spreads when deer stay concentrated over infected areas for a long time. This increases the absolute number of dangerous organisms and the time these have to jump to their hosts. So to me, reducing food and bad organisms where deer concentrate is good. So is increasing food so they don’t concentrate, shortening the time they spend in any one place, and dispersing the infection agents (prions).
You and I know that when we move cattle herds constantly, we break the reinfection cycle of parasites like intestinal worms. Holistic grazing this way works better than worm poison and doesn’t hurt the environment. Another example of how we control parasites by interrupting their reproductive cycle is the very successful screwworm program, wherein we release all those sterile males.
That is in addition to reducing wildfire and returning wild horses to the environments in which they evolved and would remain – but for human impact.
Beyond that, I would suggest you contact the author. Dr. Zabel is an expert on prion-based diseases and their spread. CLICK HERE to learn a bit more about him.
I would be interested in, and will post your thoughts, if your care to comment further.