More than $34,000 in state money will go to the care and feeding of horses captured in the Virginia Range.
"We requested the money to handle the horses that we've already trapped, the money needed to feed, process and relocate them," said state veterinarian Dr. David Thain.
"It also means we will be able to respond to emergencies between now and July 1."
He said range grasses are more plentiful now and, except for a few herds, the horses have spread out, most grazing far from populated areas.
Located primarily on state or private property in Storey County, these horses aren't federally regulated. They're classified as estrays and the Nevada Department of Agriculture is allotted $18,000 annually to regulate and protect them.
When grass becomes scarce in the higher elevations, the horses usually move into valleys and populated areas searching for feed. When they move into populated areas, the Department of Agriculture often must round them up.
" We get our funding July 1 and last year it was so dry that we were overwhelmed with horses about the same time," Thain said.
"All of a sudden, we had 150 head. Monthly feeding bills cost between $5,000 and $6,000 and we went through that $18,000 in a heartbeat."
Thain said the Department of Agriculture received $56,000 in emergency funds in the fall and the $34,101 is needed to tide it over until the fiscal year begins on July 1.
The Virginia Range encompasses about 360 square miles and supports about 1,200 horses, but that's considered too many for the range's dwindling resources. Rangeland specialist Don Henderson said conditions could force the animals into the valleys again this year.
Thain agreed, saying the Department of Agriculture will request an increase in its annual budget for the next next biennium, which starts in July of 2003.
"If we get plenty of rain, the problems aren't as acute. It's hard to get a good projection," he said. "We have budget people working on it but we don't have any figures yet."
Any long-term solution will require some means of population regulation, such as birth control, and there are no commercial products available at this time, according to Thain. The Bureau of Land Management is working with birth control shots, which are effective but expensive and must be administered every year.
Department officials in Nevada are working with researchers and the U. S. Department of Agriculture to find a feasible means of birth control. Trials could start in Nevada this year. Mares held at the prison facility could be temporarily sterilized using an intra-uterine device, Thain said.
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