Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Preliminary proof of the concept of wild (feral) horses following light aircraft into a trap.

Abstract

Feral horses, wherever managed, typically require population control involving capture for permanent removal or repeatedly for fertility control treatments. The most common method for capturing feral horses is helicopter chasing into traps. With this fear-based strategy, it is difficult to safely capture entire groups. Recapture becomes increasingly difficult, with greater safety risks for pilots and ground staff. As preliminary proof of the concept of capturing free-roaming horses by leading into enclosures with light aircraft rather than driving with helicopters, a consumer-grade quadcopter drone was used to lead a herd of 123 semi-feral ponies into simulated traps. The technique was successful on the first attempt as well as for seven of nine additional attempts over a period of 4 weeks, repeatedly to the same as well as to different destinations. The pace of following was primarily a fast walk, with occasional slow trot. Family integrity was maintained. This work demonstrates preliminary proof of the concept of repeated capture of horses by leading with aircraft rather than chasing. If successfully demonstrated in more extensive rangeland conditions, this method may eventually provide a lower-stress, more repeatable option of capturing feral horses, with implications for improved animal and human safety and welfare.