The Bull Market in Mustangs.

The Western U.S. has found a new wrinkle in the housing collapse, where homeowners are desperately struggling to cut living costs to meet the next payments on their underwater houses.

Raising horses can cost more than children, so Nevadans are turning them loose to join herds of wild mustangs, to dodge the $30,000 a year it costs to board and care for these voracious animals. Local populations are exploding, eating local ranchers out of house and home, who depend on public grazing lands to feed commercial livestock.

Recently, the Bureau of Land Management held hearings on where to place 25,000 excess animals. Mustangs are the feral descendants of horses which escaped the 17 century conquistadores, and there are now thought to be 30,000 running wild, down from a 19th century peak of 2 million. The BLM has another 30,000 in pens, and is making 10,000 a year available for adoption at $125 each.

The problem is that many adopt “pets” then flip them to Canadian slaughterhouses, which cater to the odd French taste for horseflesh. To see how this works, watch Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, and James Dean’s last film, The Misfits.

Madeleine Pickens, the wife of famed oil trader, old friend, T. Boone Pickens, has offered to take the BLM’s entire herd and put them out to pasture at an undisclosed million acre location. If there is anyone who could have an undisclosed million acres, it is Boone. I have frequently run into majestic and beautiful mustang herds over the years while camping in the remote desert (no, I don’t go to Burning Man). Reminding me that there is still some “wild” in the “West”, I will miss them when they are gone.

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