Horse News

Nevada Ag Dept vs Wild Horse Advocates

Story by Ed Pearce of

Concern of Captured Horses Going to Slaughter Grows

Few issues can stir emotions quicker in Nevada than the subject of wild horses.

Their supporters are passionate. Their detractors are often determined and state and federal officials are often caught in between.

About 40 wild horse advocates stood with signs on the capitol mall Tuesday. Motorists passing by often joining them with a supportive honk of the horn.

Most of these people are veterans of those battles.
What brought them out to stand with signs on Carson City’s main thoroughfare was the state’s efforts to remove some horses from neighborhoods east of here all in the name of addressing a public safety issue.

Horses in alarming numbers have been drifting down from the Virginia range and wandering onto U-S 50 and 95 with dangerous results.

“It got so I was getting a call every other day that a horse had been hit,” says Department of Agriculture spokesman Ed Foster.

Foster says more than 30 horses have been killed. No motorists have been injured yet, but it’s not hard to think it’s just a matter of time.

The problem isn’t hard to find. When we were in Mound House Tuesday we found two horses just a block away from U-S 50 slowly grazing their way toward the highway. A horse was hit here just days ago.

So, the state is removing some of the horses.
“We’re addressing an acute public safety crisis,” says Foster.

Truth be told some in the crowd carrying signs on the capitol mall Tuesday don’t want to see any removal at all, but others agree some need to be removed. Their fear is what will happen next.

The state plans to sell the horses at auction.

“They’ll be sold to meat buyers,” says Bonnie Matton of the Wild Horse Preservation League, one of the groups represented at the rally.

Americans have never developed a taste for horse meat, but elsewhere in the world, particularly Europe, it’s part of the diet and the advocates say that’s where some horses sold here end up.

Foster isn’t so sure. He says at the rate the state is gathering the horses, perhaps five to ten a week, an auction may not attract buyers paying by the pound for meat on the hoof.

Besides, he says, the state won’t be sending the horses to an auction yard in Fallon, holding the sale instead at the state prison’s wild horse training facility at Stewart.

“We feel that has a more neutral feel,” says Foster. Matton isn’t impressed, seeing the potential sale of horses for slaughter at the site as a blow to a much admired program that results in very adoptable horses and rehabilitated prisoners.

There was a time, not long ago, when people like Matton were working cooperatively with the state on this problem keeping the Virginia range herd in check. The state gathered horses, the advocates found homes for them.

All that cooperation went south with Governor Gibbon’s appointment of Tony Lesperance as Director of the Department of Agriculture.

Early in his controversial tenure Lesperance summarily cancelled the agreements with the wild horse groups.

Lesperance is gone now and so is funding for a birth control program and just about anything else in the department’s budget for managing wild horses and the new administration is apparently slowly feeling its way with the issue and has yet to reestablish any working relationship with the wild horse groups.

That leaves the state gathering horses, which will be sold at auction and those rallying in Carson City fearing they will end up as dog food or on someone’s dinner table in Europe.

“There’s no reason for these horses to go to slaughter,” says Matton. “We have solutions, but they refuse to work with us.”

14 replies »

  1. I don’t know ,are there any warning signs on the roads, in the horses’ grazing area ? Maybe if the driver would be aware and slow down their cars, maybe that would be less accidents. We have a big problem with deers in NY area but at least most of the drivers know where to watch for them. I agree with Barbara fences would be another good solutions. I believe there is always a solution to the problem , it just take people who are willing to work on it. That is why God gave us brain. Hi didn’t create us to kill and be greedy.


  2. Lots of people scoff at fencing ..but in Alberta Canada our major hyways are all doesn’t stop the wildlife but the system was implemented for cattle mostly and rite of way boundrys .. I know that is one of the big reasons on the list of Goverment excuses, that our wildess are being zeroed out to extinction also..Reflectors wouldn’t work on horses I don’t think..Tests in our areas showed they only work on deer..which is a huge help..But because of the cost the Goverment only puts them in a few key areas, roads our political puppets have to drive going home is key roads..Our fences are top of the line 4 strand wire, the farmers along the hyway properties like only costs them their time for fence patrol..It would not take much to fence for horses..A single cable with steel posts would only be required…But the Goverment in these areas are zeroing out the mustangs so fencing won’t be required…This is proven in lots of areas already..And I don’t think it matters where the sales are held..meat buyers are at every sale buying the bargains …They advertise in Alberta now on the website classifieds that they are coming to the ares and will pick up from your property..It’s a new way of beating that medical history form…And eliminates the sales barn costs…When the last mustang is being sold at any sale any where, the meat buyers will be there waving that blooded hand and grinning about his profits…Profits are great in Alberta even yet..50 to 200$ for the run thrus..Even well broke saddle horses rode thru are selling for under 1000$..Neighbour lady bought a quarter horse for 250$.. And he had new shoes on..That’s 200$ just for the shoes..So when you do the math with auction fees etc ..The former owner paid to sell his horse..Yet the sales are still full of the unwanted..Until slaughter is stopped, this will always happen to our horses…And the mustangs..


  3. While making my call to action film Wild Horses In Winds of Change I interviewed Tony Lesperance about the wild horses in the Virginia Range. As I followed the twisty history of the horses who roam the range, it seemed clear to me, that putting those horses under the DOA was confirming a deal with the devil. I have 2 hours of interviews with this man who said he was supportive of the free roaming horses and birth control for them but was simultaneously changing laws that would protect their freedom. The home owners of the VA. Range are split between strong supporters of the free roaming horses and those who despise them because they say the free roamers are free loaders who steal hay from their domestic animals, break into their corrals and injure or breed their horses and donkeys. The advocates showed me the under-grown springs and the rich oasis where the wild horses forage in an otherwise rocky and barren landscape. They showed me where cattle had camped and destroyed some of these precious riparian sites needed for wild life and on that range I filmed horses that looked healthy and others who looked in-bred and skinny. I was fore-warned about the introduction of big horn sheep to the range by DOW and told that the sheep were an aggressive competitor to the wild horses. “Once the big horn sheep take hold, there will be nothing left for the horses.”I was told by a wild life ranger, ” hunting them commands high dollars, because they are a trophy animal. That’s the reason they’re being introduced into Nevada – it’s all about money. Sheep tear the roots up when they graze so they are devastating to desert habitat.” Does anyone know how many big horn sheep are now on ranges in Nevada and have they also been introduced into other ranges? This is a significant impact on policies effecting wild horses – it’s a big wheel that’s been turning for several years between hunting associations the BLM and the DOW.


  4. Here is a possible solution. Horses CAN’T be the only wildlife that cross the highways at night:
    The Strieter-Lite System Is Eligible for Federal Funding
    Starting in 1985, the installation of our reflectors on state, county and city highways were eligible for 80% funding by the Federal Highway Administration. Now they are eligible for 90% funding under the Federal Highway Administration, Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP).


  5. I know that this doesn’t apply to Horses, but it demonstrates how ingenuity solves a problem
    British Badger Tunnels
    Because so many badgers are killed on the roads here in the UK too, the British highways people are increasingly providing tunnels under roads to provide safe passages for wildlife. As well as helping the local wildlife, this can also cut down the number of road accidents too.
    In fact, one of the first British purpose-built tunnels was built for badgers as long ago as 1976. Under the M5 motorway (near Wellington in Somerset, England), the idea of the tunnel was that it should prevent them from being run over by traffic. The tunnel was specially located to intersect a badger path leading from the main sett to badgers feeding grounds.
    At first this safe, underground route did not really seem to be working, as the badgers studiously avoided using it. Despite the fact that the tunnel was specially designed to save badgers’ lives and to prevent accidents, and that it was filled with suitable bait, and badger smells (called musk), they still didn’t use it.
    It was only when the badger family had several cubs to rear (and needed better food supplies) that they officially opened the site. All in all, it took the badgers nearly three years to open their tunnel, although they quickly claimed the territory as their own, by placing latrines at either end.
    That said, the tunnel has certainly saved the lives of badgers and prevented many potential accidents on a busy section of motorway – money very well spent.


  6. I agree with Louie. We had a problem with wildlife crossing on one of our major roads and the forest preserve district put in a tunnel. It not only protects the wildlife, but allows trail riders an avenue to avoid this busy highway. I have
    come to the conclusion that some people in these administrative positions do not want any solutions, they just want to remove what they see as the problems. Its so very sad that these people continue to fight the advocates because the willingness to help is there. I often ask myself why because some of the solutions are so easy and inexpensive. I have been trying to get a Wildlife Crossing signs on a major highway by my house and it has gone on deaf ears. I still continue to call in hopes that one day I will see the signs.


  7. Tunnels won’t work for horses..even tame ones wouldn’t even stick their head into one…Over-passes probably wouldn’t work either…Parks Canada built a under pass in one of our major parks here in Alberta..several million later…loops…it filled with water..So they built a year animal tracks on they fenced with 6 foot page wire for 2 miles on each side of it..That stopped the animal strike in that 4 miles..The over pass?? Still no tracks and only got 2 coyotes on the motion camera..Then some group started complaining about causing natural animal traffic issues with the fences..Fencing is the only answer for these horses..but only good enough to stop the leave enough space for the goats to cross under…can’t stop them from migrating EH…


  8. I know, JIm. I posted the article on tunnels just as an example of problem solving with creative thinking. If you’ve ever tried to get a reluctant Horse to go into a covered trailer, you’ll see how wary they are of “caves”.
    Apparently the Streiter Lites have a good track record in states that have tried them.


  9. Even if its a well lite trailer, for some of them,you mite just as well be pushing some over cliff ..Ya knew everyone would know about tunnels..just thought I’d share some of our governments GOOD ideas in Alberta..We know have a logging company pushing the Goverment to clear our wild horses out even faster than they are being trapped and shipped to slaughter..They are stating that the horses are eating the planted areas seedlings..And knowing our gov. Puppets they will believe the idiots..logging is far more tax money than wild horses..There has been several types of reflector systems tested in Alberta, but I don’t know the brands tested..I just know that the results that were publicized stated that they only worked well on deer..


  10. Sorry I wasn’t out there helping you guys protest… I came down with the grunge and was in bed with 102 temp and sore throat. I saw you on the news though and my prayers went with ya…KOLO channel 8 by the way, was the ONLY station that covered the story that day, not even a mention on the fox network, CBS or NBC affilates.

    You know I really think the Dept of AG is exaggerating a bit on how many horses have been hit by cars. How come there hasn’t been any news stories about? Okay, one or two, but not the 30 that Dept of AG is contending. ANYtime an animal is hit on the hwy, it usually makes it way to the TV/Radio news, NV appeal or Gazette journal, and I just haven’t seen it, nor have I heard about it from the other advocates in that area? So who is pulling who’s chain?


  11. i, too, am suspicious of the Dept. of Agriculture. This has happened before…over a year ago. Horses CAN’T be to only wildlife that cross the roads. I finally found this article:
    Wednesday, September 22, 2010
    Wild horse advocates believe they have solved the mystery of an increase of horse crossings recently in the Mound House area — the governor’s deputy chief of staff has been watering a two-acre plot of land he owns nearby and produced vegetation that attracted the horses.
    The issue has now also prompted the Nevada Department of Agriculture to look into possibly removing the band from the range, said Hettrick.


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