Wild horses can’t be an endangered species, says the US Fish and Wildlife Service

Maybe they’re just not Rolling Stones fans.

On July 1, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service posted its decision online not to grant endangered species status to wild horses.

A petition for the status had been filed by Friends of Animals and The Cloud Foundation in June 2014, which argued that 40% of American wild horses’ habitat had been lost since President Nixon passed the Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act in 1971.

The groups requested that the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recognize North American wild horses as a distinct population segment (DPS) of the species Equus caballus and protect them on all US federal lands. To qualify as a DPS, a petition must show that the population is both a discrete and significant part of the larger species’ population. If those criteria are met, the petition must then make the case for classifying it as endangered.

FWS found that the wild horses were not behaviorally or physiologically different enough from other horses to be considered “discrete” and therefore said it did not need to consider the other factors.

“These horses are different, they are treated different under the law, they behave differently and there’s some evidence they are genetically different,” Jennifer Barnes, a lawyer for Friends of Animals based in suburban Denver, told the Associated Press.

Passed in 1971, the Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act states that “wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; (and) that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people.”

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