The Bureau of Land Management offered a tour last week of its Indian Lakes Off-Range Wild Horse and Burro Corral northeast of Fallon to update the care of horses and announce an improved website for horse and burro adoptions.
John Neill, BLM’s facility manager for Palomino Valley, and Jason Lutterman, the agency’s spokesman for the national wild horse and burro program, took 14 people on a one-hour tour of the corrals, the second tour of the year. Neill said the Indian Lakes facility is currently holding about 1,600 horses, almost half its peak in 2015 when the pens held more than 3,000 horses. Lutterman said a holding facility was shut down in Utah more than two years ago, and the horses were transferred to other states including Nevada. During the past two years, Lutterman said the BLM transferred horses from Indian Lakes to Palomino Valley, and many of the horses and burros were also prepared for adoption.
At the beginning of the tour, Neill said horses from a recent gather east of Pyramid Lake had been sent to the National Wild Horse and Burro Center at Palomino Valley north of Sparks. The Mustang Heritage Foundation records video of the horses for its Extreme Mustang Makeover program. The Mustang Heritage Foundation’s mission helps to increase the number of successful adoptions of America’s Mustangs that are under the management of the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program. The foundation was incorporated in Nevada in 2001.
Neill gave an overview of activity at three holding facilities including Indian Lakes. The BLM recently conducted the Fox and Lake Range Emergency Gather (Fox Lake Gather) by capturing horses in a range between Nixon and Gerlach that was heavily damaged by the 94,221-acre Tohakum 2 Fire in late August and early September. The wildfire, though, burned almost 27,000 acres of the horse management area.
He added the fire also spread to tribal land and that the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe separately gathered horses.
“The Fox Lake Gather has added to the population,” Neill said, citing that 189 horses were rounded up. “The majority of horses that were captured are about 10 years of age and older, and very few were younger animals in the adult class.”
He said many horses rounded up at Fox Lake and other gathers were brought to Indian Lakes because Palomino Valley had experienced an outbreak of an upper respiratory disease several months before the roundup. Neill said the BLM is always concerned about exposing horses to equine diseases.
“We didn’t want to bring new horses in and didn’t want them to get exposed,” Neill said, adding the infectious disease has been eradicated.
According to Neill, the Indian Lakes Corral provides care for up to 3,200 wild horses or burros. The privately-run operation, which is contracted by the BLM in five-year increments, covers 320 acres containing 43 large holding pens, each measuring 70,000 square feet that will safely hold about 100 horses.
Horse advocate Maureen Daane, who has taken many tours of the Indian Lakes holding corrals, said the facility doesn’t provide shade for the horses. She also expressed concern that many horses have been at the Fallon facility for at least seven years.
Lutterman said neither the BLM nor contractor has had problems with the horses overheating. He said some shading has been provided at Palomino. Neill, though, said many unadopted horses who are 7 years and older are being sent to long-term pastures in the Midwest. He said the long-term pastures are resulting in a savings for the government because the average daily cost to house and feed wild horses at Indian Lakes averages $4 to $5 per head, while the long-hold arrangement costs an average of $2 per day.
“It’s more feasible for the long term,” Neill said.
Neill said bids for hay also go out and have been awarded to local growers. By having the horses at Indian Lakes and Palomino, Lutterman said the mustangs receive nutritional feed and are not bloating up on cheatgrass found on the ranges. Furthermore, Neill said the contractor has on-site employees who check each pen twice a day and ensure horses are being fed and watered through an automatic system.
Neill also said Indian Lakes has sandy soil, and the BLM did not experience any issues with mud during the wet winter of 2016-17.
“It’s a good operation,” he said of Indian Lakes holding pens, which took in its first horses in December 2009.
Daane expressed concern that there have been 140 horse deaths. Neill, though, said five horses died as a result of the Fox Lake Gather — three died on their own and two stallions, believed to be between 15 to 20 years old, were euthanized because of pre-existing conditions.
The BLM reported earlier this year that 18 horses died as a result of the Owyhee Gather, but a Freedom of Information Act obtained by a wild horse group placed the number closer to 30. Lutterman said he’s unaware of the 140 deaths Daane mentioned last week. Daane, however, said she was happy to learn of the BLM’s updated website for adoptions that will soon be launched. Lutterman said the improved website will make adoptions for both horses and burros easier.
“The website is a huge step,” she said. “I have always wanted to help advertise but never allowed to post photos so that’s been rough.”
Once the new website launches sometime later this month or in January, Lutterman said Daane and others will be able to post photos on the BLM adoption website. That way, Lutterman said the photos will be current for the adoption process and feature animals that are still under BLM care.
“Maureen has been a big help,” Lutterman said of her longtime concern for the wild horses and burros.
According to the agency’s website, “the BLM strives to place horses removed from public lands into good, private homes. Horses at the Indian Lakes facility are made available to the public for adoption or purchase throughout the year at off-site adoption events and through BLM’s Internet Adoption program.
Once the website launches, Lutterman said the URL will be blm.gov/whb.