Tuesday, November 18, 2008

High-tech approach to taming New Mexico's wild horses National Forest Service rangers in New Mexico's Jicarilla Wild Horse Territory (part of the Carson National Forest, near the Colorado border) are expecting some high-tech help to aid their efforts to capture and relocate the growing number of wild horses overpopulating the area and threatening to cut off the food supply. Sandia National Laboratories researchers Casey Giron and Josh Jacob are designing a sensor system that can better detect the location of wild horses so they can be more easily trapped and relocated. Although Jicarilla has enough grass and foliage to feed as many as 105 horses, according to a 2004 National Forest Service assessment, more than 425 of the animals are crowded into the territory and have thinned out the food supply. Rustling up that many horses isn't easy. Once the rangers find a group of horses, they have to build a corral and bait it with salt, minerals and hay—and hope the horses come. The horses often shy away from the corrals, because they sense people are nearby (in fact, the trappers watch the corral via surveillance camera from a trailer located 50 to 100 yards (45.7 to 91.4 meters) away and remotely close the gate after horses wander in). The use of heat or air-conditioning in the trailer is even more likely to drive off the animals, which makes for uncomfortable monitoring conditions inside the trailer in extreme weather. Giron and Jacob are building a system that not only allows the trappers to monitor the corral and work the gate from as far away as five miles, but it also alerts the trappers when horses approach the corral, negating the need for them to watch the video screens for hours or even days....I know some old time cowboys who will be guffawin' over this.

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