Santa Maria horses avoid trap |

Santa Maria horses avoid trap

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal A herd of wild horses graze at Santa Maria Ranch development east of Dayton on Tuesday morning. Nevada Department of Agriculture officials plan to round up the horses to be removed from the residential area.

The second band of wild horses to take up residence in the Santa Maria Ranch subdivision east of Dayton is getting harder to fool.

Mike Holmes, program manger for the Nevada Department of Agriculture, set up a trap Tuesday morning to remove the band of seven or so horses, but not many entered it, so he’ll have to go back today.

“There were some in there, but I didn’t close the gate on them,” he said. “They’re still there.”

Though Holmes had planned to remove the horses to the hills south of Highway 50, they are the responsibility of the Bureau of Land Management. Don Hicks, field manager for the Carson City BLM office said they will be taken to a holding pen at Palomino Valley.

“They can be adopted or they will be maintained there until they are adopted or shipped to long-term holding ranches,” Hicks said. The BLM contracts with ranches in Oklahoma and elsewhere “where horses go to live out their days,” he said.

Hicks said the horses would not be sent to slaughter.

“We don’t have the authority to send horses to slaughter, nor would we want to,” he said.

Hicks said the BLM assumes jurisdiction over wild horses south of Highway 50 and the state is responsible for the animals north of the highway. He said this band came down out of the hills south of the Carson River and then crossed the river at Santa Maria. He added that the previous 22 horses that were rounded up from Santa Maria in August were believed to have crossed Highway 50, making them the state’s responsibility.

Holmes said that although the state of Nevada has a fence-out law, meaning it is the responsibility of the property owner to fence horses, cattle or other animals out if they don’t want them around, it is left to the counties to enforce the law.

“In this instance here, because of the destruction the horses are doing right now, you can’t sit around waiting for someone to put a fence up,” he said. “But the long-term answer is fencing.”

Holmes said it is up to Lyon County to enforce the state’s open range law, and if they don’t, and horses become a problem for homeowners, he will come in to round them up.

“The law is there for the counties to use,” he said. “If they don’t desire to use it, it’s their business. The state’s not going to enforce it.”

Willis Lamm, president of Least Resistance Training Concepts, a wild-horse advocacy group, believes the county has not made correct planning decisions and residents should become more involved.

“If we don’t want to end up becoming California East, the citizens are going to have to take a more active role in the planning and development approval process,” he said. “Some of these developers seem to have the attitude that since they own the property, they have the right to dictate to the town what the town is going to become. And if we don’t assert some local control, that’s exactly what I expect will happen.”

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111 ext. 351.