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Wild horses gather in a canyon in the Book Cliff range north of Grand Junction in this May, 1, 2006, file photo. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Colorado State University is withdrawing from a controversial research project with the Bureau of Land Management that called for rounding up wild horses by helicopter and then removing their ovaries.

The university’s vice president for research made the announcement via email Wednesday, about a week after the end of a 30-day public comment period. It is the second time the Bureau of Land Management has attempted the sterilization project. Two years ago, similar plans with Oregon State University’s veterinary school fell through following protests and legal challenges from wild horse advocacy groups.

“An important component of every research process is to engage in rigorous discussion and evaluation with our own experts as well as experts from outside of the university and listening to the concerns of the larger community as we bring these innovations forward,” the statement from CSU’s Alan Rudolph said. “The decision to withdraw was made with the support of our involved researchers.”

The Colorado Sun first wrote about the proposal. Read the story here.

University spokeswoman Dell Rae Ciaravola said CSU would not provide further information about what specifically caused the university to withdraw.

Wild horse advocates had called the surgical sterilization of horses in the field  inhumane and intended to kick off a letter-writing campaign just as students returned to CSU this month.

Even though CSU researchers will not participate in the BLM project, which proposed removing the ovaries of about 100 wild mares in Oregon using an instrument with a wire loop similar to a chain, the university remains “committed to exploring this important animal welfare concern,” Rudolph wrote.

“Wild horse and burro overpopulation is a critical animal welfare issue that must be solved through objective, collaborative and transparent research,” he said. “We will continue to pursue alternatives that address wildlife welfare issues, leaving the door open to our future work.”

This story first appeared in The Colorado Sun’s newsletter, The Sunriser. You can subscribe here:

Jen is a co-founder and reporter at The Sun, where she writes about mental health, child welfare and social justice issues. Her first journalism job was at The Hungry Horse News in her home state of Montana, before moving on to reporting jobs in Texas and Oklahoma. She worked...