There are approximately 70,000 wild horses on the Western Rangeland, and many of them live in Nevada either on the Virginia Range or on Bureau of Land Management property located near Carson City, Nevada, and Reno, Nevada .The state has approximately 200 herds of wild horses spread across private, state and Bureau of Land Management property. As Nevada cities continue to grow, many people now live in areas that once served as feeding areas for these horses. While the old timers know not to feed wild horses, many new residents were tempted to lure the horses to their property by feeding them. This resulted in horses and humans getting hurt or killed.
What is the Law on Feeding Wild Horses?
The Bureau of Land Management has made it illegal to feed or water wild horses on any of their lands located near Pine Nut Mountains just south of Dayton. The state has made it illegal to feed feral horses any place in the state, although people can water the horses as long as they are not on Bureau of Land Management property. The state legislature has passed state law NRS569.04 making it a gross misdemeanor punishable with a fine up to $2,000 for feeding wild or feral horses.
Why Is it Not a Good Idea to Feed Wild or Feral Horses?
Food that many be safe for a domestic horse can cause severe imbalances in the digestive systems of wild horse. Therefore, they often die when they are exposed to food that is not part of their normal diet. Wild horses generally eat grass and brush.
Do not feed wild horses because it teaches them that going near a vehicle means getting a meal. The problem is that the horses then head towards the highway when they normally would stay back. Some motorists have been hurt or killed when their vehicle struck a wild horse while many horses are killed this way annually. Several children have been kicked by wild horses who were lured into residential areas. The state has put special strips down on the highway to try to keep the horses back, but it is not always effective. Therefore, it is best to not feed feral or wild horses, so they do not learn that cars mean food.
While it may be very tempting to feed wild horses, people who feed them are reducing the wild instincts of the horses to find food on their own. When the situation becomes critical, horses may starve to death when everyone stops feeding them.
What is the State Doing to Monitor Wild Horse Feeding?
The state is actively looking for people who are illegally feeding wild horses. One thing that the state is doing is parking near highways watching for people using these roads to provide horse feed to the wild horses. Once they see someone feeding the wild horses, they move in to make an arrest or to educate the individual. The state is also talking to local landowners asking them to report anyone they see feeding the horses. They have also placed strips on highways to try to discourage horses from crossing roads to get to food on the other side.
What Can an Individual Do?
Many people who feed wild horses are trying to be kind. Remember that these horses have survived on the Western Range for over 200 years. Peter Ogden was one of the first to write about encountering wild horses in his journal in about 1820.
Individuals who spot a wild horse that needs help may contact the Nevada Department of Agriculture at 775-353-3509. The state will try to pick up the horse if needed or provide it with food. The state has a contract with the American Wild Horse Campaign allowing people to adopt feral horses that cannot be returned to the wild. Unfortunately, many of these horses end up with livestock dealers who end up sending the horses to slaughter.
Wild horses captured by the Nevada Department of Agrictulture are generally taken to the Northern Nevada Correctional Facility in Carson City, Nevada. Those who are captured by the Bureau of Land Management are generally taken to the National Wild Horse and Burro Center located north of Sparks, Nevada.
People should not feed wild or feral horses in Nevada as they become dependent on humans for their food. Therefore, they come close to the state’s highways resulting in injuries to horses and humans. The digestive system of wild horses cannot handle food that domesticated horses can eat, so they often get sick and die. State officials are continually looking for violators by monitoring roads where feeding may take place. They also trying to work with local landowners to get them to report any suspicious activity that they observe. If an individual sees a wild horse in trouble, they should contact the Nevada Department of Agriculture.