Meet the Cold Creek herd that calls Return to Freedom home...

Nearly 400 wild horses and burros roamed in the Spring Mountains near the small mountain village of Cold Creek, Nevada, only 40 minutes north of the bustling Las Vegas Strip. This is part of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)‘s Wheeler Pass Herd Management Area (HMA).

These horses are the descendants of escapees from the 1800s horse trade, horses apparently abandoned by Native Americans, settlers coming to the Las Vegas valley, ranchers, prospectors that originally mined in this region and Native American tribes, and turned loose in the mountains and the valleys of Southern Nevada. Later, ranchers also lost more horses to the wild bands and so those bloodlines have been mixed. The horses are relatively small, but very hardy and have now been habituated to humans by grazing alongside the highway.

Wheeler Pass Horse Management Area
The Wheeler Pass Herd Management Area (HMA) is divided into two separate sections by the Spring Mountain Recreation Area, the green area in the center of the map. It covers 273,260 acres and has an estimated Wild Horse population of 81 individuals. It is bounded on the East by US-95. The North boundary is the 177,310-acre Johnnie HMA whose wild horse population is estimated at 35. Highway 160 forms the West boundary of the Western Section and the 152,251-acre Red Rock HMA with its estimated 31 wild horses and 191 wild burros make up the Southern boundary.

The Spring Mountains Recreation Area and the Wheeler Pass HMA are also home to elk, mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, jackrabbits and mountain lions.

How the horses came to Return to Freedom

A photographer and wild horse enthusiast had been photographing the herd. She became very attached to a buckskin colt she named Shiloh, as well as to many others, and became very protective of them. One day she learned that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had already begun removing 236 of the horses from the range.

Why were the horses rounded up? In this case, the local range had been hit extremely hard by the drought, and was not producing enough food. In addition, the eradication of predator coyotes created a population explosion of rabbits and rodents who competed for what was left.

With easy access to the road, and familiar now with food-bearing tourists, the emaciated horses were often found wandering, hungrily looking for handouts. This time, they truly needed help.

The photographer advocate began searching for a way to find these lost horses. After contacting dozens of individuals and groups, she called us at Return to Freedom and said that everyone she had spoken to across the country had recommended RTF as the best ally she could have in her search. We knew we had to help, and we immediately contacted the BLM on her behalf.

Return to Freedom was able to track down the herd, who were being cared for by a kind family on their private ranch. The horses were so depleted, the BLM had partnered with this family to house and feed the horses back to health.

We were able to arrange for her to visit the herd and look for the ten horses she had known for years so intimately through her camera lens. When she asked us if we would help some of the Cold Creek refugees long-term, we were able to say yes to taking in her ten closest horse friends. They have joined 55 other wild horses and 16 burros on 2,000 acres at Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary in California.

Picture Gallery: The Cold Creek Herd


News About the Cold Creek Herd

Picture Gallery: Cold Creek Horses in the Wild

Resources and More Information

Cold Creek Wild Horse Videos

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