Return to Freedom is working on finding ranches that are willing and able to take a community of horses (family and social bands) as part of a relocation project. Please contact us if you are in a position to provide a lifetime sanctuary for bonded horse groups.
The Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory is well known across the US for the wild horses it produces. Historically, horses have run on the Devil’s Garden Plateau for more than 140 years. Many of the early horses escaped from settlers or were released when their usefulness as domestic animals ended. In later years, like many areas throughout the west, local area ranchers released their domestic horses out to graze, and then gathered them as they were needed. Not all were ever captured.
With the passage of the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act (PL 92-195), private horse roundups ended. In 1974, as an initial step toward management, the Forest Service inventoried the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse population for the first time. The new Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory Management Plan, completed in 2013, set an Appropriate Management Level (AML) of a maximum of 402 total horses.
In February 2016, Modoc National Forest personnel completed a “Double Count” aerial survey of the wild horse population in and around the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory. The results of the survey show the wild horse population is greater than the AML of 206-402 adult wild horses.
Data collected is compared using statistical modeling to estimate sighting rates for observers during the survey. “Using this method, we estimate the current wild horse population is 2,246 adult horses,” said Forest Rangeland Management Specialist and survey coordinator, Jenny Jayo. “This means wild horse population size has nearly doubled since February 2013 when the last inventory was completed. Wild horses now occupy an area more than twice the size of the territory designated for their use by the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.”
Many horses have moved off of the Territory and Forest onto private and tribal land. The Modoc National Forest is currently planning to remove wild horses from private land where requested. This is a top priority under the 2013 Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory Management Plan.
Removal of these wild horses will allow recovery of range and riparian ecological conditions on the private or tribal lands, as well as reduce damage to privately owned fences and competition among wild horses and other uses.
Once gathered, these wild horses will be transported to short-term holding where they will be fed, watered and humanely cared for until they are adopted or otherwise placed in private care with qualified individuals or groups who will provide the animals with good homes. Providing homes for these horses will contribute significantly to the health of the herd and the range supporting them.
The Modoc National Forest is seeking additional partners in forming a collaborative group to help ensure the health of gathered horses, find good homes for the animals that cannot remain on the territory and contribute to a sustainable situation for this great American resource.
For information on how to apply to be part of the collaborative group or how to otherwise contribute to this effort, please contact Forest Range Program Manager Jim Wright at Jimmy Wright Forest Service. To learn more about how to help provide homes for these unique horses, please contact Public Affairs Officer Ken Sandusky at Ken Sandusky — Forest Service.