The corral and water tanks seen from a helicopter during a wild horse count Monday are being used to trap horses - but not to keep them from their range.
It's being done by the Nevada Department of Agriculture so the animals can be given birth control and water.
Jeanne Gribbin of the Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Agency, which paid for and arranged the helicopter count, was concerned when told about the corral and tanks, that someone might be trapping horses and keeping them from migrating, since there were few in the Virginia City Highlands.
It turned out the corrals and water tanks belong to the state Department of Agriculture, which has restarted its birth control program.
They are also used by volunteers from Least Resistance Training Concepts, who take water out there for the horses and the stock belonging to Vince Ferriera, who has permission to use the Highlands Group land for his cows.
Horse counters Olivia Fiamengo, a longtime advocate, and Dr. Keith Forbes of the Nevada Department of Agriculture, said they thought the property belonged to the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, and neither was aware of the programs. They were also not aware that the property had been sold to the Highlands group, which hopes to develop it in the future.
Willis Lamm, president of Least Resistance Training Concepts, said the confusion was probably the result of some parties not being aware of the land sale, and the confusion over location that can come from zigzagging in a helicopter all day.
The corral and tanks were set up by state Department of Agriculture range manager Mike Holmes, for the birth control program.
The program has halted earlier this year because of a shortage of the drug GNRH, but was recently restarted, again under the supervision of veterinarian Dr. David Thain of the University of Nevada Reno.
"This is a field study," Holmes said. "We trap them, then they will get birth control and then we're going to have them microchipped, so that we will know if we pick them up. We are going to keep a running tab on them."
He said any horses caught will be released again after receiving birth control.
With 1,448 horses counted Monday, the state wants to use birth control as a way to manage the numbers, but aren't sure how effective it will be, so they are doing the study.
Holmes said no one else was trapping horses.
"There are people all over the place that watch the range, and you can't set a trap up to collect horses and haul them out without someone seeing something," he said.
"There's someone always watching."
The corral and tanks are also being used to bring water in, with a 10-wheel International Roadster truck donated by Ferriera, who said the horse advocates were helping him if they were willing to do the hauling.
Some materials and resources are donated by local businesses, and the watering is organized and done by Least Resistance.
Lamm said horses who have access to water can travel long distances.
"Horses can still eat grass that is pretty low grade, if they have water," he said. "They ingest a lot and then they tank up with water and the grass absorbs the water. They get kind of like camels, so long as they can get water."
Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or call 881-7351.