Roch Hart is a third-generation New Mexican with a deep, genuine appreciation for the land and its expansive mountains, desert and scrub, and the petroglyphs that adorn far reaches of the private, 20,000-acre ranch he manages.
Hart recognizes that preservation is the key to maintaining New Mexico’s land heritage.
As a retired police officer, former plant manager, tour guide operator and photographer, Hart maintains that he became a rancher almost by accident. It is through this position that he’s used entrepreneurial thinking to to identify a problem at his workplace, in this case a 20,000 acre ranch, and develop a solution for a costly situation.
There’s a wild horse problem in New Mexico, as well as all of the arid west, and the general public is in the dark about the issue. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Land Management spends an astonishing $80 million dollars per year on the capture and care of overpopulated wild horses, also known as feral horses.
Hart worries that the public won’t react until the more inhumane options of mass roundups and euthanasia become visible and routine.
His company, Wildlife Protection Management, developed an innovative, scalable and humane option. It is a feeding station for wild horses that is equipped with the capability for remote injection of contraceptives. This patent-pending method is conducted with remote delivery. After the horse has placed itself in the proper position, an operator nearly 300 miles away is able to dispatch the injection via video surveillance and controls.
Hart is a graduate of Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University’s AgSprint program, a five-month accelerator for innovation in agriculture, funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and New Mexico Gas Company.
Wild horses are merely startled, not hurt, and return almost immediately to graze at the feed station. In addition to the contraceptive, and in anticipation of Radio-Frequency Identification technology, the system has the capability to deliver a microchip so that horses can be monitored for health and behavior.
The system has been proven to fire at least two darts at once, which could include a combination of contraceptive, RFID chip and/or vaccination.
“The system has produced a ‘wow’ effect,” Hart said. “This is really game-changing and will form a new industry. No one in the world has tried to do this yet.”
Hart anticipates the next prototype, enhanced with solar power and other features, to be ready in April. Experts are supportive of WPMs innovation prototype and its vast possibilities.
“The remote capability of the WPM device is an amazing tool in that it saves time and manpower. The ability to deliver vaccine or birth control in this method is far more humane than having to chase these feral horses, for capture and vaccination or individually darting from a distance,” said Dr. Ralph Zimmerman, New Mexico State Veterinarian. “To have the ability to maintain the needs of the horses(or other potential target species with minimal fear and stress to these animals is huge. The system could also be used to sedate adoptable animals for handling and adoption, providing another non-lethal method of population control. Obviously, in this case you could schedule appropriate staffing for safe horse handling.”
The innovation is also a species-specific target, which means that the technology used to humanely control wild horse populations can also be adapted to feral dogs, feral pigs, deer, and other wild animals.
Wildlife Protection Management is in the process of raising funds for another round of efficacy testing, focused in part on RFID delivery “a vital step toward attracting additional federal grants and private investment.” The company launched a crowdfunding campaign this month, and they aim to raise $50,000 to continue testing the humane and cost-saving solution.
Click on the highlighted text to support WPM’s crowdfunding campaign to preserve both New Mexico’s wild horse legacy as well as its enchanted land.
Author: : Lauren Goldstein – NMSU