Forty-four wild horses were captured on Thursday, the first day of a planned 575-horse helicopter roundup on the Pine Nut Mountains Herd Management Area near Carson City, Nev.
No injuries were reported among the 23 mares, 13 stallions and eight foals captured, according to the Bureau of Land Management. The start of the roundup had been set for Jan. 7, but it was delayed by the government shutdown then again on Wednesday because of weather.
In a press release, BLM blamed “excessive grazing from wild horses” for “degraded sage-grouse habitat and reduced the amount of native grass both inside and outside the (Herd Management Area). Because of lack of forage and water within the HMA, horses have been moving into residential areas and roadways, creating a public safety issue.”
The Pine Nut Mountains Herd Management HMA includes 104,316 acres, including 95,391 acres of BLM land with the rest comprised of other public and private land.
As of March 1, 2018, the BLM estimated the population n the Pine Nut Mountains Herd Management Area at 775 wild horses, compared to an agency-set “Appropriate Management Level” of 118-179 horses — as low as one horse for every 884 acres.
By comparison, BLM has allocated 43,008 Animal Unit Months during portions of the year to privately owned cattle on nine grazing allotments that overlap the HMA, the equivalent of 3,584 cow-calf pairs. An AUM is defined as a month’s forage for one horse, one cow-calf pair or five sheep.
BLM planning documents note that actual livestock use has been limited to no more than 363 total AUMs, or about 30 cattle, for year-round use, since 2006. No livestock have grazed on seven of the nine allotments during the same time period, according to BLM.
Captured horses will be separated from their family bands and sorted by age and gender. They will be transported to the Palomino Valley Off-Range Wild Horse and Burro Corrals in Reno, Nev., where they will be prepared for adoption or sale.
Viewing the roundup
Members of the public will be allowed to observe the roundup when it is being conducted on public land. Observation at the temporary holding pens will be allowed on a first-come, first-served basis when the roundup is being held on private land.
Those who wish to observe the roundup must send an email message with “Pine Nut Wild Horse Request” in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org at least 24 hours prior to the date they would like to attend.