Study calls for removal of Wild Horses from Virginia Range

VIRGINIA CITY - As many as 225 wild horses should be removed each year for the next three years from the Virginia Range because the herds are growing too fast, state officials and wildlife protectors said Wednesday.

"We wish we could just leave them alone," said Olivia Fiamengo, a member of the Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association, but she said the ever-increasing horse population can't survive without assistance and protection.

The Nevada Department of Agriculture and the wildlife association on Wednesday released results from a recently completed study on the habitat capacity for estray horses in the Virginia Range.

The study, conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource Conservation Service, calls for the removal of 225 feral horses a year for the next three years. The move is designed to preserve the herds as well as the habitat and stabilize the horse population at about 550.

Feral horses haven't been a problem here until recently, but herds are growing at a rate of about 18 to 20 percent each year and could double in the next three to five years, officials said.

The horses are descendants of those used at the height of the Comstock in the1860s. But as the Comstock mining played out and ranching dwindled, they were turned out to the open range to fend for themselves.

They were not afforded protection under the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act because a large portion of the herd area is under private rather than federal ownership. As a result, they fell under the jurisdiction of the State of Nevada estray animal statutes.

In June 1977 as population pressures began to build, the Nevada Legislature designated the Division of Agriculture to manage the estray horses. Since 1997 the division has removed about 200 animals from the range.

The goal of the Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association is the adoption and proper care of all horses captured and removed from the Virginia Range.

"We need help and cooperation from area residents and other nonprofit groups like our own to make this plan work," said Fiamengo, noting the VRWPA is concerned with the welfare of all wildlife in the area but that the horses have required the most time and effort.

Captured horses are examined by veterinarians and branded before being put up for adoption. Horses are taken to a facility at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City.

Since the inception of the program in 1997, 200 horses have been captured. With the nonprofit organizations involved, all have been adopted within the sixty-day period.

There will be an open house at the adoption facility on Saturday at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center off Snyder Avenue in Carson City.

Those interested in adopting a horse or visiting the facility are invited to attend.

For information about adoption, call:

Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association at (775) 881-2288

Wild Horse Organized Asistance, Inc. at (775) 851-4817

American Mustang & Burro Association, Inc., at (530) 633-9271

Wild Horses In Need, Inc. at (775) 827-3045


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