Bella was captured from her home range in the Sheldon National Fish & Wildlife Refuge in Northwestern Nevada.
The Sheldon National Fish & Wildlife Refuge in Northwestern Nevada encompasses 575,000 acres of wonderful habitat for wild horses and other wildlife in the Northeast corner of Nye County, Nevada.
In 2000, the Fish and Wildlife Service continued removing the horses from Refuge lands. In an effort to set a new precedent, Return to Freedom collaborated with the US Fish & Wildlife Service to relocate more than 50 wild horses in their intact family herds from the refuge. The horses were gathered on horseback and relocated to Return to Freedom’s Sanctuary with their small family and bachelor bands intact. Seven stallions arrived at Return to Freedom in 2000. Some arrived with mares in harem bands and some as part of a small group of males called ‘bachelor bands.’
Before the area became a national wildlife refuge, the ranchers raised European horse breeds as working ranch horses and as remounts for the U.S. Cavalry. The wild horses removed from the Refuge are descendent from a combination of draft horses who worked hard to develop the large ranches in Nevada’s Great Basin and cavalry horses raised in that region during the 1920s and 1930s At the turn of the 20th century, there was no more demand for saddle horses and these horses along with Percheron and other ranch horses were released to range on what is now the Sheldon Fish and Wildlife Refuge and surrounding public lands.
Descendent of Standardbred, Morgan, draft and other breeds, these horses survived and returned to a natural state in some of America’s most challenging habitat. Over many decades these horses have increased bone density, instinct and represent the current adaptation of the wild horse of North America’s Great Basin. In 2014 the wild horses and burros on the Refuge lost the fight for their survival against relentless Government removals intended to eliminate all wild horses from the Sheldon Refuge. Although advocates fought for years to have the Fish and Wildlife Service manage wild horse populations with fertility control, the Agency removed all wild horses and burros from the Refuge.