Nevada has one of the largest wild horse populations in the country. With a lingering drought, however, that accolade may soon diminish.
By law, the Bureau of Land Management is required to look out for these horses. In early August, however, more than 200 horses were rounded up from the Cold Creek region and sent to an equine rehabilitation facility in Utah. Of those 200 horses, 30 had to be euthanized.
The problem, according to Karla Norris, assistant director of the BLM's southern district office, is the lack of food and water available for these horses to sustain themselves.
The BLM uses a universal equine health scale to rank the horse's health, on a setting of one through nine, one being emaciated and nine being obese. Domestic horses are typically kept between a healthy four and six.
None of the horses from Cold Creek scored above a three.
"They were severely emaciated, bony, some were lame and in very poor body condition," Norris said.
In previous years the BLM has used methods of birth control for wild mares to control populations, which historically fluctuate every four to five years. The budget this year, however, did not allow for such measures.
Compounding the problem is well-meaning people who feed the horses scraps from their cars - chips, fruit or maybe the occasional bales of hay. While the horses desperately need food, hand feeding them will make the horses lose their ability to forage.
The future of wild mustang populations hangs in the balance. Thanks to a federal grant from Congress, Norris said birth control strategies will again be used to keep populations a sustainable number.
Karla Norris, assistant director, Bureau of Land Management southern district office
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