On June 26, 2015, 6 teenage Return to Freedom Wild Horse Rangers, ventured out to see how the wild horses on the Fish Creek Herd Management Area (HMA) in Eureka, Nevada were handling the drought after enduring the roundup just a few months earlier.
On February 13 2015, the roundup began and within 6 days the BLM captured 424 horses with plans to release 186 horses back onto their range. Local ranchers temporarily blocked the BLM from returning the horses to their home on the range, but on April 7, 2015, 162 wild horses were returned to freedom on their home in the Fish Creek HMA!
On our trip in June, we were able to view and photograph some of the reintegrated bands, check water troughs, witness the impact the drought is having on all wildlife and learn about the long term potential this pioneering management plan can offer for; more study of the impact the herds have on the range, contraception, the impact roundups on the social behaviors and well being of the herds.
Here is a letter from one of our youth participants Peter Gonzalez!
Earlier this Summer I ventured out on a road trip to Eureka Nevada in search of Wild Horses within the Fish Creek HMA. With a team of Mustang Youth from RTF and Neda DeMayo, we drove into the barren Nevada dessert. On the way we stopped and camped and swam at mineral Hot Springs. There in Bishop I began my first right of passage, a Garlic Vinegar Quail shooter from the nearby Pauite-Japaneese restaurant. All Vegetarian of course, and completely legal.. I think.
We proceeded to drive through the Montgomery Pass HMA, when suddenly our cars slammed their brakes and and jolted onto the side of the road. We had spotted Wild Horses!!! Such a small and little band consisting of a big black stallion, bay mare, and their chestnut foal. I remember in that moment, how a small diverse group really came together. Some of us riding our whole lives, or dreaming of running a sanctuary since the tender age of five, others living in the big city and allergic to hay. Who ever we were, we all became excited and cherished their presence, watching with concern to be sure they crossed a distant road safely.
We then continued for hours until turning onto a dirt road, rolling into the first allotment within the Fish Creek HMA where we met up with Laura Leigh from “Wild Horse Education”. I was so happy to meet her because she is such an inspiration. She has worked hard and found success within her cause to educate people about what is happening on the range in a shared effort with other advocates to protect the wild horse herds on our public lands.
Almost immediately we stopped and saw Sarge and his band. This well documented palomino stallion was especially protective of his herd and he steered them away. Uncommon considering he has been known to eat out of people’s hands. Laura explained that was because the horses are now weary of people after the roundup just a few months earlier. She expressed concern that people may be harassing the horses as they drive through the HMA, creating obstacles for the BLM’s unique pilot program which was approved to begin this year.
The Nevada dessert was unexpectedly, breathtakingly beautiful. Swirls of dense blue sage and grasses laid out as far as the eye can see. Large volcanic rocks piercing through the earth forming dynamic geometric shapes. Along with smooth boulders with rounded edges made up of layers of sedimentary rock that must have taken thousands of years to form. Hills covered in dense forests where wildlife go during the day to seek relief from the scorching afternoon sun. Badgers ran across the road, pronghorn antelope who live in fear of everything that moves as a result of the bounty of trophy hunters.
Then there were the clouds, in minutes open blue skies and hot air turned to dark rain clouds as thunderstorms raged in the far off distance. Then the heavens opened up. Inside I felt an irrational fear that the whole landscape would be washed away in some major flash flood right before my eyes. But the rains would evaporate, so fast on their descent they never even touched the ground. Leaving behind vertical swirls of lavender crystals suspended in air. It was as though I was looking at the ghosts of rainfall, coming to haunt the drought stricken landscape. We continued on and saw more horses, heard Laura’s stories of how families reconnected out on the range following the roundup. These wild horses are very close to their families, something in common with my Latino relatives!
That night we camped on the HMA. Neda pointed out that when you have the opportunity to explore and experience these remote areas on foot and see the bonded wild horse bands in these natural environments, you can more fully realize what it really means to take away a horse’s freedom. Not only is it costly to round them up and sentence them to a life in long term holding which cost tax payers over sixty million annually for holding facilities alone. By rounding up the horses, they loose everything. They are deprived of their freedom, their ability to be educated by the herd, express natural herd behaviors, bond and interact with their family. Against the sentiments of 80% of Americans who expressed in a national survey that they were against horse slaughter, scared wild horses along with many domestic horses endure the inhumane and horrific ride to a Canadian or Mexican slaughterhouse. The day they are captured they will never again roam this expansive landscape and enjoy the view like that epic evening sunset.
That is why we must now work together and find more cost effective solutions to manage wild horse herds out on the range so our remaining herds will not have to continue to suffer tragic roundups, capture and permanent removal from their home on the range. We need to work together to find common ground solutions and hold those accountable who destroy the expansive landscape and resources with the brazen harvesting of natural resources for special interests especially in the midst of a serious drought. I hope more and more people will be inspired to venture out and explore the vanishing wild places.
Over all I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone interested. I am sincerely thankful to Laura Leigh and the time she took out of her busy schedule to come and meet with us, Shauna Richardson and everyone within the BLM who supported this new management plan for the unique and diverse horses on the Fish Creek HMA so that they can learn more about on the range management solutions and herd behavior.
I am thankful to Neda DeMayo for building Return to Freedom’s innovative sanctuary, programs and the time she spent driving out to the middle of no-where, patiently answering my redundant questions, (allowing her cars to get caked in dust throughout the journey) and inspiring people like me to care about America’s wild horses.