Last year, two conservation groups filed a petition that calls to include the North American wild horse in the Endangered Species Act with the Friends of Animals and The Cloud Foundation arguing that over 40,000 of these wild horses are threatened to disappear on federal lands throughout 10 Western states.
The conservationists likewise argued that these mustangs are a distinct population with different physiological and behavioral characteristics from domesticated horses.
The petition says that the habitat of mustang has decreased by 40 percent since the Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act was signed into law by then President Richard Nixon in 1971.
It argues what the Bureau of Land Management already rejected long ago that the wild horse is a native species for a temporary period of time then went extinct until Spanish explorers reintroduced the species to North America in 1500s.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, however, rejected the proposal on Wednesday after finding that the petition did not present sufficient evidence to support that wild horses are a distinct population segment. In a new 90-day finding that refuses to study the matter any further, the agency concluded that in essence, a horse is a horse.
The wildlife authority said that while behaviors between wild and domesticated animals belonging to the same species may vary, the petition was found to lack in significant information that could show the North American wild horse may be distinct from other horse populations as a result of behavioral difference.
BLM, which continues to stand that the wild horses are not native, said that these horses were descended from domestic horses that were brought by the European explorers and others that escaped or were released from captivity in modern times. Friends of Animals said that it was disappointed with the finding of the agency.
"These horses are different, they are treated different under the law, they behave differently and there's some evidence they are genetically different," said Friends of Animals lawyer Jennifer Barnes, who added that they plan to look for more details before they would decide if they should file an emended petition to slow down BLM's roundups of mustangs.
Some organizations such as the Nevada Cattlemen's Association and the Public Lands Council, however, were not amenable to listing the wild horses under the Endangered Species act.