Nevada HMA Stocking Rates

The chart below shows the stocking rate in animals per thousand acres as a function of land area for HMAs in Nevada.  Stocking rates are based on the upper values of the AMLs and include both horses and burros.  The stocking rate for the Virginia Range (horses only) is based on a census in early 2018.

Three observations from the chart:

  • Most stocking rates are less than 2 animals per thousand acres
  • Stocking rates vary inversely with HMA size
  • Stocking rates for large HMAs (above 500,000 acres) are basically constant

The average HMA in Nevada has 193,000 acres.

The HMA with the largest stocking rate is Fort Sage (formerly Fox Hog).

The largest HMAs are the Nevada Wild Horse Range and Triple B.  The smallest is Fort Sage.

The average stocking rate for Nevada HMAs is 0.84 animals per thousand acres.


Hay Reserve

Your emergency preps should include hay for your horses, enough for a month.  Keep it dry and away from sunlight.

Natural events, such as earthquakes, wildfires and hurricanes may force businesses to close for weeks.  Transportation may be interrupted.  Power and fuel may be in short supply.

Your back may go out, where you can’t even scoop poop, let alone stack hay.  (You do stack your own hay, right?)

The quality of the hay may deteriorate over time, so after a period of six to twelve months, rotate it out with fresh bales.  But always keep a one-month supply on hand and don’t touch it unless there’s an emergency.


Nevada HMA Population

The chart below shows the population target for HMAs in Nevada as a function of HMA size.

Inspection of the chart yields three conclusions:

  • Most of the HMAs are smaller than 200,000 acres in size
  • Most of the AMLs are less than 500 animals
  • AML varies with size but not linearly

Regarding that last point, HMAs with a size of 100,000 acres have an average AML of about 150 animals.  If AML varied linearly with size, an HMA of 500,000 acres would have a population target of roughly 750 animals, which is not the case.  Larger HMAs have a disproportionally low population target.

The Virginia Range, in the western part of the state, has been included for comparison (actual population, not a target, mostly private land).  It does appear to be an outlier compared to the HMAs, with a disproportionally high number of animals for it’s size.

And no, the VR horses are not standing around on dry lots starving to death, as you can see in this video from 2016.


Keeping a Safe Distance

You just drove two and a half hours to your favorite HMA.  Or maybe you went for a hike on the Virginia Range.  Just to your west, barely visible, you spot a band of wild horses.


As you’re watching, some of the horses drift closer, including a mare and foal.  A yearling steps in first for a closer look.  What should you do?


If you’re in a remote area, where the horses have little or no contact with people, this probably won’t happen.  You’ll need a long lens.  They’ll make sure you keep a safe distance.

What if you’re in a area where the horses are familiar with people?  (Recall this example involving burros.)

Some folks say get out of there if approached by a wild horse.  Good advice?  Or bad lesson for the horse?

Look at the photo above.  No high head, no ear pinning, no tail swishing.  If you step back, if you move your feet, he wins.  You just told the horse you’re lower.

If a horse approaches you respectfully, as in the case above, don’t yield to his pressure.  Stand your ground.  Push back if you have to.  He’ll probably take a few sniffs and move on.

Backing away tells him he’s higher, which may encourage more boldness, more interactions with people.  Bad lesson for the horse.

If a horse approaches you aggressively, pick up a rock, a stick, whatever you can get your hands on, and be ready to throw it.  Raise your posture, look bigger.  Use your voice.  He’ll probably steer clear of you.  Horses are comfort-seeking animals and don’t like confrontation.


Pain and Confusion

Round pens are great.  Especially when you have multiple riders and long-shank bits.  The horse goes left, he gets pressure.  The horse goes right, he gets pressure.  Turns to the inside, he gets pressure.  Turns to the outside, more pressure.  There is no right answer.

Let’s round up more of our wild ones and put them in programs like this.

Stepping Stones

Which came first…legalized abortion or contraception?  Contraception, in 1960.

Abortion, legalized in 1973, may have been the goal, but it had to be justified.  Get the people accustomed to contraception.  Observe that it sometimes fails.  Then point to the need for abortion.

One hundred years ago, most people would have gasped at the idea of contraception.

Today, the idea is so widely accepted that it’s even applied to wild horses.

A few years from now, you’ll hear complaints that it’s too expensive, too difficult to administer and doesn’t provide a lasting solution (to the wild horse ‘problem’).  An argument will be made that ‘excess’ animals must be sterilized or euthanized.

At that point, our wild ones will be finished, and you can thank the PZP zealots, most of whom are women.

Nine Point Four

More evidence of overpopulation on the Virginia Range, an area with a stocking rate ten times higher than your average HMA in Nevada, 9.4 horses per thousand acres vs. 0.84 horses (plus a few burros) per thousand acres on HMAs.  Photo taken 04/15/18.

Critics argue that the range can’t support these numbers.

Don’t be fooled, they’re not trying to protect the land, they’re trying to protect a narrative.


Principally But Not Exclusively

Public lands inhabited by wild horses and burros in 1971, when the WHB Act was signed into law, are devoted primarily to WHB, right?

Nope, not according to the BLM.  Only three areas in the western U.S. are managed principally for horses and one for burros.


Listen carefully to the remarks from 0:05:30 to 0:06:12 in the presentation by John Ruhs, State Director for BLM in Nevada, at this post.  The areas of interest, unnamed in the video, are (1) Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range, (2) Nevada Wild Horse Range, (3) Little Bookcliffs Wild Horse Area and (4) Marietta Wild Burro Range.

Note that all four are listed as HMAs.  Little Bookcliffs is referred to as an Area, while the other three are called Ranges.

You have HMAs, you have Ranges, you have Areas.  HMAs can be upgraded to Ranges if the Director of the BLM so designates.  Only in such cases do the benefits of ‘principally but not exclusively’ apply.

Is that what Congress intended in 1971?

Stocking rates for these areas (based on upper values of AMLs):

  • Pryor Mountains WH Range: 317 acres per horse (3.2 horses per thousand acres)
  • Nevada WH Range: 2603 acres per horse (0.38 horses per thousand acres)
  • Little Bookcliffs WH Area: 240 acres per horse (4.2 horses per thousand acres)
  • Marietta WB Range: 620 acres per burro (1.6 burros per thousand acres)

The Nevada WH Range is part of Nellis Air Force Base.  Principal use is weapons development and flight training, no public access.

H/T Wild Horse Education.

Are There Any Wild Burros in Nevada?

Yep, you can find them here:

Managed for Burros Only

Managed for Horses and Burros

The stocking rate on some of these HMAs is so low that the probability of actually seeing a horse or burro is small.  Best chance might be on the Blue Wing Mountains and Warm Springs Canyon HMAs, with stocking rates of 3.6 and 2.2 animals per thousand acres respectively (based on the upper range of the AMLs).

In the burros-only category, Marietta Wild Burro Range is best, with a stocking rate of 1.6 animals per thousand acres.

In addition to the Marietta burros, this video gives you a nice view of the Nevada high desert.

Nevada HMA Stats

Roughly half of the wild horses and burros in the U.S. can be found in Nevada.  Here are some statistics for the state, developed from individual pages at the BLM web site.

  • Number of stand-alone HMAs: 80 (does not include Amargosa Valley, Ash Meadows and El Dorado Mountains, which are not managed as individual HMAs)
  • Total land: 15.4 million acres (mostly public, some private)
  • Total animals: 12,944 (mostly horses, some burros, using upper values of AMLs)
  • Stocking rate: 1192 acres per animal (0.84 animals per thousand acres)
  • Stocking rate at 3X AML: 397 acres per animal (2.5 animals per thousand acres)

The last figure is offered as an estimate of the current situation, as many of the HMAs have more animals than allowed by the upper value of their AMLs.

The Virginia Range, on the west side of the state and not a part of the BLM system, has a stocking rate of 106 acres per animal (9.4 animals per thousand acres, horses only, mostly private land).

Much of the state falls within the Great Basin, with elevations ranging from 4000 feet in the valleys to over 10,000 feet at some mountain peaks.  Annual rainfall varies from four to six inches at lower elevations to 12 to 16 inches in the mountains, making it the driest state in the nation.  Areas receiving less than 11 inches per year are considered desert.

It’s a harsh environment, but the horses and burros have adapted to it nicely.


Freedom Restored

Video from 2012 showing the return of wild horses to Stone Cabin HMA.  Their crime?  They entered the country by birth.

The Stone Cabin Greys are noted for their change in color from black or bay when young, to grey, to white or almost white in adulthood.

The first wild horse gather was carried out at this HMA in 1975, under the watchful eye of Velma Johnston.  Helicopters and motor vehicles were not allowed at the time but were authorized a year later by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.  Johnston died in 1977.