Dorothy Nylen: Concerns over wild horses along Highway 50
The numbers of free-roaming horses on the range are small in comparison to livestock across the American West. Dr. Perryman of the University of Nevada, Reno, as with many other range ecologists, has a background working with the cattlemen’s association and is mainly concerned with how to balance the health of the range so it best supports massive numbers of domestic livestock.
There’s an abundance of forage on the range locally along the U.S. 50 corridor between Carson City and Silver Springs. While the Nevada Department of Transportation has worked diligently to add fencing and cattle guards all around the perimeter of Virginia/Flowery ranges, a large swath of this highway corridor remains completely unfenced. The horses locals and tourists so treasure, like deer, have no understanding of the threat of motor vehicles.
The lack of fencing and other actions along the highway coupled with the Department of Agriculture’s cancellation of humane birth control and management programs have created a dangerous situation. The Nevada Department of Agriculture couldn’t have chosen a worse time to stop a birth control program that was working, and to stop managing these state-owned horses.
Over the years NDA has claimed horses are starving, blaming shortages as the reason horses come into the valleys at certain times of the year. The truth is the animals have seasonal rounds.
Through these misleading statements NDA has encouraged people to wrongly feed horses or offer water to them near the highway and have helped make this problem worse. If horses wander into neighborhoods the public thinks they must be starving — this is not true.
There are also many ways Lyon County could address the fencing problem along the highway and also work with developers so horses stay out of neighborhoods. Ultimately, it’s the governor and other state officials who need to stop focusing on getting rid of the Virginia Range horses and instead come back to the table to resume humane management.
Dorothy Nyle is Wild Horse Preservation League director