About 11 wild horses meandered easily through the sage late Tuesday before gathering near a home off East Valley Road, the black stallion separating himself from the mares as he watched over them.
With Jobs Peak and Carson Valley serving as the backdrop it's a beautiful setting, but the people providing the feed and water that draws these horses into residential areas could be killing them, according to local wild horse and Bureau of Land Management officials.
"Feeding wild horses isn't like feeding birds, but these people don't get it," said Dan Jacquet, assistant field manager for the Bureau of Land Management's Carson City field office.
A three-month-old colt from the herd was killed in traffic about a month ago and the bureau has received complaints about the horses, who have been destroying landscaping and creating a nuisance.
"Unfortunately, this group of horses have been habituated to the area, but it's not a good place for them and they're getting into trouble," Jacquet said. "It's our responsibility to remove horses from private lands and manage them in a designated herd management area."
The problem might not go away if the horses are simply relocated. Either they'll return or another herd will take their place, Jacquet said.
"And that area is growing," he said. "This isn't going to get easier."
He asks that people fence their property to keep the animals from eating landscaping and stop feeding or watering them to encourage the horses to move off private land.
"Those are the fundamentals," he said.
For almost six years, the bureau has worked with the Fish Springs Wild Horse Posse to keep the horses in their herd management area in the Pine Nut Mountains. Jacquet lauded the posse's performance, saying the Bureau could not have managed the situation effectively without them.
But the presence of the posse has become a bone of contention because some residents have grown so attached to the animals they want them in their back yards, according to Posse leader Sheila Schwadel.
Over the last six weeks, efforts to get the band out of the neighborhood have failed because residents are not willing to listen and the posse's efforts have led to threats of trespassing charges at the Douglas County Sheriff's office, Schwadel said.
"The issue isn't the horses. The issue is the residents," she said. "They won't allow us access to their properties so we can move the herd back into Pine Nuts. By not giving us access, they're ensuring any horses wandering down into the neighborhoods will stay.
"We're trying to keep these wild horses wild and safe," she said. "It's disheartening."
A Rabbit Brush resident who would only identify herself as Pat said she neither feeds nor waters the horses, but loves seeing them.
"People who don't want the horses around they should fence them out," she said. "They were here before we were."
Gary Griffith, who has lobbied for these wild horses in the Legislature, feels the horses will eventually create enough issues for the Bureau to round them up.
"The horses deserve better," he said. "We wouldn't be here if not for those horses. The country wouldn't have been settled without them. We owe them something," he said.
"People don't seem to understand that the horses need to be left alone."
- Contact reporter Susie Vasquez at email@example.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.