We’ve received the same theme of questions a few times this week, so I thought I’d write about it here. ‘What do you do with the body? Have you had any deaths? What if you need Vet or have to euthanize? ‘ Those are all great questions! Let’s break it down.
“What do you do if you find a body?”
We would leave it in place. Wild horses grieve the loss of family members just like we do, and they come back their graves even years after the fact. Carrion (the body of an animal after it has passed) is an important food source for many wild animals, and it’s a helpful soil builder too. As long as the death was natural, we’re happy to let Mother Nature take place.
“Have you had any deaths?”
We’ve had one confirmed death, a humane euthanasia, though it is possible that we have had some attrition in the background. It can be hard to keep track of everyone on so much land, and we have a healthy population of scavengers too. They keep the land remarkably clean, and they do so quickly, making the telltale signs of a death quickly disappear. More than a third of our herd is in their late 20’s, so we do expect our numbers to naturally decrease in the coming years.
“What if you need a Vet?”
Well, this can be a tough one. We do work with Vet’s whenever possible, but the logistics of providing care to wild, unhandled horses (especially horses that are loose on thousands of acres) is daunting. We’re able to provide limited care (antibiotics, feeding programs, possible wound care, etc.) to horses in our Medical Pasture, but once they’ve been released to join the rest of the herd, our options are rather limited. If there was an injury or disease that was causing (or would lead to) true suffering, we would humanely euthanize. Otherwise, our herd lives as naturally as possible, which means healing naturally too. Remember, we’d have to catch them, corral them and handle them to provide assistance. The stress of that alone is likely to cause even greater injury than the original concern. We do try, but we are limited in options.
“What about euthanasia?”
That can be a tricky one. The logistics for euthanizing a wild horse in a herd setting is one that few consider. In order for a Veterinarian to administer the IV injection, a horse needs to be handleable. Trying to catch and restrain an injured wild horse for medical treatment could be incredibly dangerous for the Vet and anyone trying to help, not to mention terrifying for the horse and potentially triggering to protective band members standing by. If it was safe and advised by the Vet to humanely euthanize by injection, we would follow through and perform whatever actions were needed. In that event, the body would need to be buried 6’+ deep to prevent the death of scavengers that would be eating contaminated meat. The reality, however, is that if euthanasia was required in a herd setting like this, it would likely be done in a less pretty fashion. That image may seem jarring, but when done properly with great care and attention, it can be a respectful, loving, and rather seamless event. I have witnessed dozens of euthanasias myself (not here), and can say that Jasmine’s passing was the quickest I’ve ever seen.
You can read more about that day and the reaction of her band members on the link below. It was hard to say goodbye that day, but it was time.
Jasmine, forever in our hearts. https://serengetifoundation.com/jasmine-forever-in-our-hearts/