| AP Photo/Linda Spillers
The timing was right and the future looks bright for small band of eight horses picked up by the Nevada Department of Agriculture in a north Carson City neighborhood about two weeks ago.
Caught in a specially-designed trap after several calls from concerned residents, the horses include duns, bays, a gruella and an appaloosa colt. All milled easily in their large pen at the Department of Agriculture's facility at Stewart Conservation Camp and all, from the 4-month-old foal to the massive bay stallion, were sleek, shiny and exceptionally tame for "wild" horses.
Mike Holmes, Virginia Range estray manager for the department, said the horses had been fed by residents, leading to both their condition and their nature.
"The band has been hanging around Carson City's north side for months," he said. "We didn't get any complaints about them, just calls of concern. We received three or four calls about dirt bikers chasing them and one man called, saying he'd come close to hitting a foal in the dark. A few days later, someone else called about the same thing."
The animals won't be available for adoption until they've been processed, but three prospective owners have already expressed an interest in four of the animals, according to Holmes.
"When we bring the horses in small bunches, finding homes for them isn't a problem, but we can't reduce the numbers that way. We can't even keep up with the foal crop," he said. "Unfortunately, it gets a lot harder to adopt them out when we bring in 200 to 300 head."
No date has been set, but state officials hope to conduct their first helicopter gather from the Virginia Range this summer, possibly as early as July 31.
According to State Veterinarian Dr. David Thain, poor range conditions in other areas of the state have necessitated emergency gathers elsewhere and the equipment, contracted from the Bureau of Land Management, is tied up.
Emergency gathers across north and cental Nevada, as well as to the south near Las Vegas, are in progress, according to Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Maxine Shane.
"About 1,000 horses from northern Elko County, Las Vegas and Caliente have been captured and taken to the facility at Ridgecrest, Calif.," she said. "Another gather is planned between Battle Mountain and Austin."
She said the bureau controls about 103 herd management areas in Nevada, encompassing about 16 million acres and each is unique, requiring individualized attention.
Nevada has about 20,000 wild horses and officials hope to reduce those numbers, to between 14,000 and 15,000, according to Shane.
When the numbers have reached that level, officials say the herd will thrive and the range will sustain itself. To that end, population figures have dropped by about 2,000 annually, for the past two years.
"As a rule, we try to gather down to the appropriate management level," Shane said. "When we get into a drought situation and have too many animals, we have a real problem, trying to get the herd down to viable numbers."
The Bureau of Land Management oversees wild horses on Nevada's public lands. Carson City's horses fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture rather than the Bureau because the land here, together with most of the Virginia Range to the north, is privately owned.
The Bureau of Land Management and the Nevada Department of Agriculture each have their own adoption programs.