State to round up horses despite Storey county's opposition

VIRGINIA CITY -- State officials still plan to round up wild horses in the Virginia Range, despite an ordinance which would make the operation illegal in Storey County.

County commissioners decided at their Tuesday meeting to enforce the ordinance which prohibits the use of aircraft or motor vehicles to gather horses.

But Paul Iverson, executive director of the Nevada Department of Agriculture, said the the department will round up horses anyway.

"We feel we have been given the authority by the state Legislature to manage this piece of land," Iverson said. "Whether there's an ordinance or not, we have an obligation."

Iverson said if a restraining order is filed against the department, they will still gather up horses outside of Storey county lines.

The department has been managing wild horses in the Virginia Range for many years. He said the helicopter gather is necessary because the number of horses is out of control.

There are about 1,200 wild horses in the range, but Iverson said only 600 can survive with the limited resources. The horses that are gathered from the Virginia Range will be moved to places in California and South Dakota.

While Iverson said a helicopter roundup would be safe for the horses, Deputy District Attorney Sharon Claasson said County Ordinance 6.12 was enacted in 1978 because the rugged terrain is dangerous to animals.

"If anybody violates (the ordinance), it's cruelty to animals," Claasson said.

The Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association also discourages the use of helicopters to round up horses because of the dangerous terrain.

President of the association, Olivia Fiamengo, said there could be safer ways to gather the wild horses. She said it would be better to use volunteers instead of helicopters.

But Iverson disagrees.

"We feel the best solution is the helicopter," he said. "This is an opportunity for us to get a lot of horses off in a hurry."

Claasson said it would be difficult for the department to gather horses only in bordering Lyon County.

However, Iverson said the roundup would stay out of Storey County lines.

He does not know when the round up will happen. He said as soon as the helicopter pilot has two free days, they will gather up the horses.


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