Outdoors | January 18th, 2023
By Sabrina Hornung
Birgit Pruess is a biologist with a Ph.D. in Biology, originally from Germany. She has lived in Fargo since the early 90s, taking on a position at NDSU.
Along with being a scientist she is also an artist and in 2014 she made her first trip to Theodore Roosevelt State Park (TRNP), with her parents, who were visiting from Germany to celebrate her 50th birthday.
Since then she found herself coming back, particularly drawn to the wild horses. In fact, she developed a love of photography while photographing the wild horses in the park. She joined a number of facebook groups of like-minded individuals who also loved the wild horse herds. She learned the names of the horses and observed their behavior during her visits out west.
She appreciated the uniqueness of the horses, and noted they were much easier to identify due to their coloring than, say, the bison herds.
“I was thinking about maybe joining the team of scientists, but I thought they only have so many on the team, and there isn't really anything I can bring in expertise that they don't already have, and they probably won't take me just for curious… Then I thought I could maybe get into wild horse genetics at some point and start out with writing a book for the general public as a way to raise awareness and get the photos among people.”
In the Fall of 2021 she compiled her photos and research and started to work on her book project, “Free in TRNP.” She provides not only information on the horses themselves, but also insights into the environment surrounding them, the plants, the flowers.
Her first book talk/exhibition of her photos was at the Spirit Room last summer. Now she sees her work as a call for action: Theodore Roosevelt National Park is considering phasing out the herd.
“It’s simple and complex both at the same time. I mean, I'm definitely opposed to it. I'm also wondering what on earth is the real reason for the removal? Because there isn't really any logical one. And then I mean, what is the best way to prevent that? I'm working on all sorts of problems with that respect. And one thing I noticed is that even though this has been going on since last summer, lots of people don't know about it.” Pruess said.
She thinks that the best thing that can be done is public engagement. In fact the park is allowing public comment until January 31 in writing or through their website. Pruess also noted that she reached out to a number of legislators.
“What I'm hearing is that yeah, they're talking about it. Everybody wants to keep them, but they're not really sure what to do about it either. It's the state legislature, right? I mean, the federal park is not under their jurisdiction, so they can’t really give them orders, but they could let them know somehow that the state doesn't support the idea of removing the horses.” said Pruess.
“There’s a cultural and historical component, obviously, I mean for every two footprints that somebody left coming out West, there were four hoof prints. We really wouldn't be where we are and who we are today without horses, Without mustang horses, not just any horses, so this push about getting rid of all the mustangs, I don't know what's the point behind reducing the number.”
When contacted, spokespeople from Theodore Roosevelt National Park offered no comment and directed us to their website nps.org.
How is the park managing the herd?
According to their December “Livestock Plan Scoping Newsletter,” there are currently three alternatives regarding the park’s management of the herd.
Alternative A would be no action, which is handled under the 1978 EA and 1970 Management Plan. Currently there are 200 horses living in the South Unit of TRNP. Population is maintained by park officials and horses are handled, sold or auctioned off.
Alternative B would be facilitating a swift reduction of the herd to zero, which would be a two year process.
Alternative C would be a phased out approach to reducing the herd to zero. In both B and C phrases, the tribes would get first call on the mustangs.
Wait…how does the park plan on phasing out the herd?
According to their website, One method of herd reduction is temporary birth control, another method is “low stress herding” which also includes corral trapping. The corral traps are placed in areas that the horses are known to linger often baiting them with mineral blocks or water. Tranquilizer darts are often used to sedate animals, though according to the website this technique is being re-evaluated in consideration of the safety of the animals.
Genetic research is also being conducted utilizing hair samples. According to nps.gov, “Molecular data is used to evaluate the genetic diversity, ancestry, and demography of the herd to inform management decisions.”
There’s also an adoption program which is managed via a website managed by the federal government. Before anyone is allowed to bid on these animals, a statement of intent needs to be signed. They are notified that the horses are wild, thus untrained and need to be guaranteed that they have adequate space and will be taken care of.
We reached out to the Medora foundation and spoke to Kaelee Wallace, their marketing manager.
“We do not have the expertise to comment on the management of the herd. And nor do we wish to speak to the origin of the animals. But we know from the business that we're in, which is tourism and welcoming guests, we hear often that the bison and the horses in the National Park are a guest favorite. So we know that that's a tourism drive and helps not just the businesses and attractions that the Theodore Roosevelt-Medora Foundation owns and operates but really the tourism landscape of Medora as a whole.”
Wallace went on to say, “We have fielded a handful of calls, both on the media side but then specifically from our customers as well as our donor base, because the horses mean so much to so many people and specifically we have some really wonderful donors who have spent a lot of time in the National Park capturing images of the horses and we hear from our people that they're very special to them. And I know that that echoes not just through the customers and donors that have reached out to us but through the larger population of visitors to Medora.”
Please share your comments no later than January 31, 2023, online through the PEPC website at: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/LP
Or in writing to:
Theodore Roosevelt National Park PO Box 7
Medora, ND 58645
Dr. Birgit Pruess’s book is available at:
August 17th 2021
August 17th 2021
January 23rd 2019
August 18th 2017
August 18th 2017
Proposed Bills Could Take Books off Library ShelvesBy Laura Simmonslaurasimmons2025@u.northwestern.edu The passing of ND House Bill 1205 and ND Senate Bill 2360, which would prevent sexually explicit books from being in public…
By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comHPR chats with a local legendThe following interview was done in February of 2016, just a few months after Mr. Josef Olivieri's 90th birthday. We're sorry to hear of his passing at the age of 97 on…
Tuesday, March 21, 6:30pmZandbroz Variety, FargoAuthor of “Boys and Oil: Growing Up Gay in a Fractured Land” Taylor Broby will discuss the important role libraries play in their communities as sanctuaries of acceptance. He will…
By John Strandjas@hpr1.comOur Opinion: Who on Earth would ever want to move to North Dakota?Let’s talk about the left hand and the right hand. Or, more correctly, let’s focus on the right hand, being as there is no left in ND…
By Ed Raymond firstname.lastname@example.orgHas Christianity Gone Bankrupt Because of Evangelicals, Stupidity, and the Vatican?The word “bankruptcy” refers to money because…
Well shiver me timbers. After weeks of sampling some of the finest drinks in F-M from more bars than we could shake a belaying pin at, the results of High Plains Reader’s 6th Annual Cocktail Showdown are in! For nine weeks,…
By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.comWhen thinking of popular sandwiches associated with the Upper Midwest, the sloppy joe immediately comes to mind. But let’s not forget the sandwich with a spicy side – the taco grinder. It’s a…
By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com Upon discovering the music of Arkansas-based musician Nick Shoulders, there are a couple of things that come to mind. At first listen it’s no secret that his sound is a celebration of past music…
By Greg Carlsongregcarlson1@gmail.comOn Saturday, March 25, filmmaker Mike Flanagan returns to the Fargo Film Festival, where “Absentia,” his debut feature, made its world premiere in 2011. This time, he will be joined by his…
By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comIf you’ve ever driven down the Enchanted Highway, the 32-mile ribbon of road connecting Regent to Gladstone in western North Dakota, home to the world’s largest salvaged metal sculptures,…
By Jessica M. Hawkesjmhawkes84@gmail.comIt wasn’t long after the founding of the railroad and river town of New Rockford that entertainment venues started to put down their own roots. Its population bolstered by booms of nearby…
By Jan Syverson Jan.r.Syverson@gmail.comFor the past 30 years live, stand-up comedy has had a place in the Fargo Moorhead area, Starting with…
By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comSpring is here (mostly), and our area is buzzing with people eager to get back out and about -- many newly vaccinated and feeling a bit safer. Partnering with Jade Events, Fargo Brewing is just…
By John Showalter email@example.comThey sell fentanyl test strips and kits to harm-reduction organizations and…
JANUARY 19, 1967– MARCH 8, 2023 Brittney Leigh Goodman, 56, of Fargo, N.D., passed away unexpectedly at her home on March 8, 2023. Brittney was born January 19, 1967, to Ruth Wilson Pollock and Donald Ray Goodman, in Hardinsburg,…
By Ken and Alice Christiansonsubmit@hpr1.com HB 1332 is currently before the North Dakota legislature. The bill proposes to permit social workers to use a discredited treatment method to convert the sexual orientation of gay and…