RENO — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced plans Wednesday to gather about 1,700 wild horses from the Nevada range.
The agency cited drought, dwindling forage and an overabundance of animals in three herd management areas.
“There is very limited water available for the horses, very little food,” said Susie Stokke, BLM’s Nevada wild horse and burro program manager.
On the Nevada Wild Horse Range north of Las Vegas, Stokke said animals are traveling five to 10 miles a day to get food and water, causing some animals to become lame.
“There just isn’t any food left within a three-to-five mile radius of water sources,” she said.
To round up the animals from that area, Stokke said traps will be set around the limited water supplies that are accessible by vehicle.
“They’re coming in in very large numbers to water,” she said. At times, hundreds of animals congregate at the sites, she said.
BLM expects to start gathering horses from there and at the North Stillwater Herd Management Area near Winnemucca within the next two weeks, Stokke said.
A roundup planned for the Fox and Lake area south of Gerlach, about 90 miles north of Reno, probably will be conducted by early August.
That region, Stokke said, is at a higher elevation and received more moisture and cooler temperatures this spring, and conditions are not as critical.
But such conditions will change by midsummer, when temperatures climb and water sources dry up, she said.
Gathered horses will be taken to holding facilities and made available for public adoption.
Announcement of the planned roundups comes a day after BLM officials in Washington, D.C., said the agency is seeking bids from people around the country who are willing and able to provide pasture and care for 500 to 2,500 horses taken from the range that are considered unadoptable.
Agency officials estimate that 33,000 wild horses and burros roam the landscape in 10 Western states. About half are in Nevada. Most animals gathered are put up for adoption.
Because the animals are protected under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, those deemed too old or otherwise unfit for adoption are sent to long-term holding facilities to live out their lives.
The three largest holding pens are in Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
But the facilities, with a combined capacity of roughly 22,000, are maxed out, officials said.
The agency said about 30,000 animals are in long-term care, about the same amount still on the range.
Henri Bisson, BLM deputy director, said herds of horses and burros can double in size every four years if left unchecked.