Wild horse advocates and state seeking change in warnings
MOUND HOUSE – State Agriculture Department Director Paul Iverson said he has been pushing for a year to get a flashing light to warn of wild horses.
Iverson said the number of wild horses being struck by automobiles in the area warrants a change.
“I’ve talked with the Department of Transportation about changing the signs (along Highway 50 near south Highway 341),” he said. “We’ve got almost a thousand horses up in that range that migrate down to get water. I’ve asked them to do a study to see if we couldn’t get a flashing light.”
His comments echo a plea by Lydia Hammack, president of the Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association board.
Recent auto versus wild horse accidents have brought to the forefront a call for change in the signs used to increase awareness for drivers of the presence of wild horses in the Virginia Highlands and Mound House areas.
“Caution horses signs don’t tell drivers anything,” Iverson said. “They don’t recognize those horse signs and what they mean.”
He said that he was returning to the area on Christmas morning and there were seven horses standing about 20 feet off the roadway, and cars were going by without paying any attention.
“We’ve lost a lot of them on the roads, so if we could get a sign that could get the driver’s attention, it would make is so we don’t get a lot of them being killed,” he said.
Hammack said she would like to see signs along a section of north Highway 341 as well as increasing a length of fencing to direct wild horses to an alternate crossing point.
“To a lot of drivers, especially tourists, they see the sign and they think that it means horseback riding,” she said. “It doesn’t say what is needed: Major wild horse crossing.”
During the past year, at least two horses have had to be destroyed because they were struck by vehicles driving along a section near Fivemile Flats.
Hammack said that she has received the support of the Storey County Commission and Storey County Sheriff Pat Whitten to get the signs changed. She said she has been working with commissioners in Lyon and Washoe counties as well.
When she approached NDOT officials, she was told funding was the problem.
“I told them that we’d come up with the money if they’d clear the way for the signs,” Hammack said.
Hammack said the association is a nonprofit organization. It relies on donations. The recent fund-raiser organized by country singer Lacy J. Dalton of Dayton artist Steve Saylor’s painting, “Wild Horse Crossing,” helped. Hammack said more could be done.
“Picking up the animals here is not the answer,” Hammack said. “We’re hopeful that we can get something done. There’s water on both sides of the road and the horses are looking for the grass.”
Iverson said he hopes that a study coming out this spring will help lend some credence to the fact that the signs must be changed.
“Anything that we could do would be worthwhile,” he said.