Another week in the badlands…

I can’t believe I’ve almost been here a month already!  The weather has stayed fairly moderate – apparently it’s been much cooler this summer than in the past, and we’ve gotten a large amount of rain. I’m not sure if it’s because of the weather, but the majority of the bands have been sticking to one particular area of the park, named Linbo Flats.  The flats are quite a ways from the loop road that travels throughout the park, and hiking is often required.  Although a lower elevation that Fort Collins, the badlands of Theodore Roosevelt park require a lot of hiking up and down numerous hills, so we are getting good cardio workouts!  The study I’m working on is long-term – to begin, last summer the horses were observed before being treated with the drug.  Last fall during a scheduled round-up and horse auction, the mares participating in the study were given either the GonaCon vaccine or a saline injection. By that time they were already pregnant (or not), so it did not affect this year’s crop of new foals.  The drug is very viscous so as to ensure a slow release over a few years, and we are now observing the bands to see if the drug may be having any behavioral effects on band dynamics.  Next summer the researchers will be able to ascertain the efficacy of the drug, when the number of foals produced will be compared to previous years.  Normally, the horses in the park have a 90% pregnancy rate (much higher than domestic horses), which causes the number of horses in the park to increase by 30% every year, and is the cause for round-ups and horse auctions.  Hopefully, if the vaccine is successful, the horses will be able to run free in the park for longer periods of time without human intervention.

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