Horse News

Field Report: Life and Death ~ Wild Horses and Burros of Twin Peaks

“Independent Field Reporters, Kathy Gregg and Jesica Johnston, have been back to Twin Peaks HMA on behalf of our wild equines.  Their report, below, is both beautiful and heart rending in the way in which it is presented.  Many thanks to these intrepid reporters and please spread the word as the last of our wild horses and burros need both your voice and your help.  Please click (HERE) to download report complete with photo gallery.  Keep the faith my friends!” ~ R.T.


Twin Peaks and Buckhorn Wild Horse and Burro Herd Management Areas Survey June 7th, 8th and 9th 2014
Jesica Johnston, Environmental Scientist B.A, M.S.,

Kathy Gregg, Environmental Researcher Photographs by Jesica Johnston

Twin Peaks June 2014


Two experienced wildlife observers searched for three days for wild horses and burros and other wildlife in Northern California’s Twin Peaks and the Buckhorn Wild Horse and Burro Herd Management Areas (HMAs). We traveled approximately 138 miles over 3 days and 16 1⁄2 hours in the herd management areas. We drove slowly with many stops; some off-road hiking and almost constant searching with binoculars for signs of wild horses and wild burros. After 3 days, a total of only 12 wild horses and 20 wild burros were observed. Of those, 2 were horse foals and 1 was a burro foal. All observed horses and burros and range conditions appeared to be in excellent health with the exception of our discovery of one recently deceased wild horse.

During the survey there were times that only a short distance could be seen due to canyon walls but for the majority of the survey a distance of more than a mile in all directions could be seen and often a distance of many miles were observable with binoculars. This allows us to estimate that approximately 18% of the Twin Peaks HMA and 21% of the Buckhorn HMA were observed as a rough approximation.  Even though time and mileage was documented and a map available, HMA boundaries are poorly marked thus some mileage and hours in the herd management areas is estimated.

What was most obvious is the notable absence of wild horses and burros on their legally authorized herd areas.

Map of Public Land Roads Traveled (Red)

Twin Peaks Roads Traveled

Saturday 06/07/2014
Twin Peaks Herd Management Area: 54 miles and 3 hours Sand Pass and Smoke Creek Roads

We saw over 54 miles of the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area with diverse ecosystems; some with luscious streams and forage and trees and some with dry desert conditions and observed only 2 burros along Smoke Creek road and 17 burros near highway 395. We saw very few signs of any wild horses and burros in this area like trailing, tracks or manure until we reached the group living near highway 395. The Twin Peaks burros have a variety of colors; some have the mark of the cross on their backs and stripes on their legs and some have a fuzzier brown coat and some are black and some have a white muzzle and we even found one that was completely black. Although they are wild and cautious, they are very curious and attentively stand for photos.

Sunday 06/08/2014
We traveled a total of 66 miles and 9 hours on the Twin Peaks and Buckhorn HMAs.

Twin Peaks HMA: 26 miles 6 hours Rye Patch and Horne Ranch and a few off-shoot roads

Early summer is a wonderful time to visit this area and there are oceans of wildflowers blooming in Twin Peaks. One specifically that dominates the landscape in June is Mule’s Ears (Wyethia mollis) which are bright yellow sunflowers that cover the desert. It was the most spectacular display of this flower. Entire valleys and hillsides were blooming. Photos can hardly show the beauty we saw, but here are some photos. 

We saw two families of sage grouse hens and chicks on the east side of Observation Peak. These birds are currently nominated for the endangered species list and it is interesting to note that these were thriving in this area that was burned in 2012 and where domestic livestock have not grazed for the past two years.

While continually stopping and scanning the horizon with binoculars we saw no wild horses or burros until all of a sudden a big jack burro came trotting out of the juniper trees toward our vehicle and it seemed humorous that this burro gave the impression that he wanted us to be sure and not pass him by without spending some time with him so of course we obliged. He was very curious and although we never got within 50 feet of him, he could be heard snorting not aggressively, just in a communicative way. We saw this same burro a few years ago and had named him “Blink” since he seems to appear out of nowhere when you least expect it. He was very curious and seemed to appreciate our company as he watched us from the adjacent hillside as we ate our lunch.

Twin Peaks HMA and Buckhorn HMA: 40 miles 3 hours on the Buckhorn Byway Road

About 1500 domestic sheep were witnessed trespassing on our public HMA land. We also witnessed about 50 cattle in the off-limits to livestock burn area and there was even a new sign that said “Closed to Grazing”. The areas that burned during the Rush Fire of 2012 are off-limits to all domestic livestock so these are trespass livestock and the livestock owners are in serious and willful federal violation of the rancher’s grazing permit but this appears to be “forgiven” by the BLM and casually ignored by the livestock permittees. Last summer at least ten individual cases of livestock trespass were documented on Twin Peaks and Buckhorn HMAs and these were reported to both the Eagle Lake and Surprise BLM Field Offices, but obviously it is still occurring in great numbers.

We saw one magnificent copper-colored buckskin wild horse casually grazing alone in a meadow. We had not seen him before but he will certainly be recognized if we see him in the future and he will not be easily forgotten. He was stunning. The wild horses and burros in these herd management areas are in excellent condition with shining coats, healthy weight, bright eyes and curious minds.

Monday 06/09/2014

Twin Peaks HMA: 18 miles 4 1⁄2 hours Rye Patch Road

This day gave us the highest and the lowest sentiments of any of our many trips to any wild horse and burro area. After much searching, we finally spotted the white stallion “Magic” way up near the top of a hill with his mare “Hope” and another little family band we call the Spanish family. Magic is the son of the great Twin Peaks stallion BraveHeart, who was captured and died at the hands of BLM in 2010. Because BraveHeart’s son “magically” appeared the following year after the BLM roundup and he had somehow avoided being captured, the name “Magic” just seemed like the only name he should have. We sometimes give wild horses and burros “names”; not to humanize them but for identification purposes when we share stories with other wild horse and burro devotees.

The Spanish family’s two year old colt had been seen just a few weeks ago with this family, but was now missing.

We watched and photographed Magic and Hope and the Spanish stallion with his charcoal colored dapple mare Spring and their dark brown yearling and their new brown foal for a long time by quietly sitting down in the tall grass and flowers. This was the highlight of the entire trip!

Leaving these wild families to continue their grazing, we headed back down to the road and before long we spotted something very startling a dead horse. After close examination, we identified the horse as Shiny. Shiny had been one of the wild stallions that we had the good fortune to see and get to know on our previous visits. He was a bay who got his name from his exceptionally gleaming coat and had been half of a bachelor band with his buddy Curley until just a few weeks ago when these two stallions had been found with two mares.

Shiny on the right and his bachelor buddy Curly on the left – photo Sept 10, 2011

Shiny had been dead for a few days, but his body showed no apparent signs of physical trauma. His time in the desert was over. We can appreciate and be grateful that he lived his life truly wild and free as Mother Nature intended.

Miscellaneous Observations

As noticed on many previous trips since the livestock have been taken out, the abundance of lush forage and the lack of any signs of animals trailing in the Rush Fire burn area were very notable. In past years, animal trailing (trails of animals through the grass) was very noticeable, but with the removal of most livestock in the burn area and with very few wild horses and burros remaining in these herd management areas the signs of trailing are missing. Other obvious clues to the number and location of animals in this area are the conspicuous lack of horse and burro tracks or manure.

Other wildlife we observed: coyote, golden eagle, crows/ravens, vultures, hawks, wild hare, pigmy rabbit, water birds and many song birds, an owl, small herds of prong-horn antelope and deer, ground squirrels, insects and sage grouse. We saw what looked like a beaver pond area and also some underground burrows possibly marmot? The land is finally healing and the wildlife have returned to their habitat after the devastating fire of 2012.


We found both Pilgrim Lake and Burnt Lake and many reservoirs were dry. This is usually the case in the late summer but not this early in the year despite the fact that the area had some good rains late in the winter and spring. With generations of passed down knowledge, the wild horses and burros do have “hidden” springs that are still flowing in canyons. One favorite oasis of all wildlife is known Big Spring and it has fresh water and high thick grass abounds.

The natural forage of sage, bitterbrush and native grasses was in abundance but in many areas there were acres and acres of invasive cheat grass. In some areas where domestic livestock have grazed, the vegetation was destroyed it was very obvious. In areas where there were no domestic livestock, we especially noticed that the native grasses showed an almost pristine appearance due to the fact that there are so few wild horses and burros and the domestic livestock has been removed for almost two years.

Although in a few spots we saw wild horse or burro manure and stud piles, indicating that there were wild horses or burros living in the area, in most of these wild horse and burro HMAs there was none, validating that the wild horse population is very minimal.

BLM’s latest wild horse and burro population estimate for this area was approximately 1,750 but numerous independent aerial and ground surveys indicate there are far fewer remaining.


So … where are our wild horses and burros?
We found them…
at the Litchfield California and Palomino Valley Nevada BLM holding facilities.

BLM’s Litchfield holding facility near Susanville, California appeared to be about half full with approximately 500 wild horses and burros still standing in this “feedlot” situation while literally just over the hill the legally designated wild horse and burro land is almost empty. BLM’s Palomino Valley holding facility near Reno, Nevada also appeared approximately half full with about 1,000 wild horses standing in their “feedlotcorrals. They have no shade from the blazing sun and no shelter from the freezing winter winds. Horses were even lying down and trying to cool themselves in a few small indentations in the moist soil where a little water had leaked out from the trough. These magnificent wild animals should be in their legal herd areas. The BLM’s management is unjust, illegal and inhumane.

Final Thoughts

Per the 1971 Congressional Act, the land is to be devoted principally, but not exclusively, to the wild horses and wild burro’s welfare in keeping with the multiple-use management concept of public lands. Definition of “principally” is first, highest, foremost in importance, rank, worth or degree, chief, mainly, largely, chiefly, especially, particularly, mostly, primarily, above all, predominantly, in the main, for the most part, first and foremost. There are no “excess” wild horses and burros on their legally designated land. The American people are being misled by our government agencies that are mandated by Congressional Law to protect these animals. The wild horses and burros already have a place to live; and it is not in government corrals. These animals and this land do not belong to the government or BLM the wild horses and burros and the lands belong to you and me.

Click (HERE) to download complete report WITH photos


Twin Peaks video: Twin Peaks 2011 Master’s Thesis by Jesica Johnston:

2012 Rush Fire Report: report-where-are-all-the-wild-horses-and-burros/

Twin Peaks May 2013 Report: notably-absent-from-california-herd-area-after-blm-roundup-and-fire/

Twin Peaks August 2013 Report: wild-burro-good-news-and-bad-news-from-twin-peaks-hma/

Twin Peaks Independent Aerial Survey Report: wild-horse-and-burro-aerial-population-survey/

Wild Horse Population Growth Research Report: wild-horse-population-growth/

Twin Peaks October 2013 Report: have-all-the-wild-horses-and-burros-gone/

24 replies »

  1. Thank you for your updates on this….This shows the level of Mismanagement and Bureaucracy BS from our government.


  2. A classic case of truth vs propaganda. Once again I say the BLM is working the system just like the VA. Bonus’s and pay raises at stake for “a job well done”. The job performance being based on man-made lies. Congress has to get it’s act together when overseeing these rogue agencies.


  3. Thank You for this update !!!!! Awesome reading , but very sad !!!!!! I would like to know how can you trespass on Land that belongs to you …(meaning the Horses)…….. This travasty infuriates me…………….. Our Mustangs need to be put back where they belong !!!!!!


  4. Thank you for taking the time to do this. I have sent an email to Mr. Fontana of BLM to direct him to yor report and get to the bottom of the hundreds of sheep seen in the photographs. That is a scary sight, knowing how precious the grass is out there. First dibs should be to the wild life and the protected species. The dogs don’t look so good either. The cattle are a continuing problem out there, and as we saw at teh Modoc meeting, the cattlemen have asked for and were given special treatment due to their concern for impact on their business. That should be weighed against the value of the public grasslands which are being used to the detriment of other species for one individual. That is a problem in my opinion.

    Thank you for reporting.


  5. well the enviromentals need to shut up don’t they !!! they got what they wanted as dtd the sheep and cattlemen very sad its at the exspence of the wilds one . this needs to be taken straight to congress and be demanded to take down this rogue agency but even i shoved in their face ,action seems mile and miles from getting anything done from these that are there now and with ample proof of wrong doing ,they will do nothing about this or all the thieves taking up space in these washington d c offices . we as the american public deserve better than this atrocity that has become our country !!! what a beautiful and depressing report ,thank-you .


  6. This marks nearly a dozen forays into Twin Peaks by Ms. Gregg & Ms. Johnston, et al, of their own accord and at their own expense, something the Eagle Lakes and Surprise field offices seem unwilling or incapable of doing.
    This year will mark the four-year anniversary of the Twin Peaks roundup; repeated, independent research and observation indicate an absence of wild horses and burros. Yet we know the inevitable is coming – another Environmental Assessment, full of the wrong information that will cite a last-minute ‘study’ indicating why wild equines must be removed from this HMA.
    I wonder if, for the reader, these reports convey the enormity of this area: More than 50 miles long, over 30 miles wide, it’s entirely possible there are parts of this rugged patch of Public land that haven’t seen a human in a hundred years. Even with trespass livestock and lax enforcement of grazing leases, the rich ecological diversity has demonstrated repeatedly it is fully equipped to respond and recover to a variety of adverse conditions.
    The 2010 Environmental Assessment that secured the removal of nearly 1,800 animals was authored by 10 people. If ‘field study’ had been an actual basis for the document, these people would have been responsible for around 79,000 acres each. Instead, I believe, the EA took the worst possible scenarios and ‘interpreted’ them. Their population ‘estimates’ continue to reveal a studied ignorance: No one knows – or can know – how many wild equines actually live here.
    Without seasonal field reports like those written by Ms. Gregg and Ms. Johnston, we would have no viable records of what’s actually occurring in this HMA.
    Kinda makes you wonder, doesn’t it, how the money allocated for the WH&B Program for these two field offices is being spent.


    • A number of odd ventures come to mind – shade studies, chemical sterilization of stallions, field spaying etc etc

      I’d also like to congratulate BLM Fallon on the wonderful care of the horses clearly exhibited by the happy contenance while being photographed for this report. Good job, BLM! Can we next work on getting the many foot deep bed of manure cleaned up? That is disgusting. I cannot imagine the flies these poor creatures have to deal with. Does no human paid for taking direct responsibility for these horses care – even a little?


      • ‘Broken Arrow’ is a little different; it’s a ‘private’ care facility, so I guess it’s not really held to any standards of cleanliness that might cut into that ever-vital bottom line.


  7. I had heard awhile back that BLM had stripped the HMA from horses. These aren’t mistakes (a BLM employee coined that phrase to me last year). This is out and out horse hating contractors and staff who are in flagrant disregard for the horses and the law. What’s worse is if the horses had been left the big Twin Peaks fire wouldn’t have occurred.

    And now the same bozos who implemented that atrocity have control of the horses for their care. Is it any wonder they won’t provide shelter from the elements.

    Gotta love Joan Guilfoyles comment about how they aren’t going to cater to the advocates who Sue them every week. On one hand at least she’s honest. But what EXACTLY did BLM do at the Bundy Ranch? If that wasn’t caving… . You know it wouldn’t be caving to advocates for BLM to live up to the very standards they ask of adopters. Adopters have to provide a 3 sided shelter, water etc.


  8. Good going, Kathy and Jesica. This is the kind of public vigilance and monitoring that is required to let the wild horse enemies both in official positions and on the public taxpayer dole know that there are people who still care about these magnificent returned North American presences and don’t have the wool pulled over their eyes as concerns the real positive contribution these wonderful animals make and in so many ways! PS. See below link for new updated version of my book.


  9. Thank you for the update although it’s sad for our wild horses. The video is beautiful and it’s amazing how Shiny’s hoof is still perfect. Wrote to my Reps — for what it’s worth. Somehow our writing has to rub off on them.


  10. We have 100 cows to one wild horse grazing on government land I am also an American Tax payer and I want the land to be maintained for the wild animals of America. Not to fatten some cattle or oil mans check book, talk about grandfather laws the wild horses, big cats and wolf was here long before any cattle. Thank you for the report Kathy and Jesica I feel our government is up to no good and one day our wild ones will be shipped to Canada or Mexico we all know they only care about the money. This breaks my heart I feel so betrayed by my country.


  11. THANK YOU Kathy and Jesica. Twin Peaks…there is SO much to cover. Where do we start?
    This is just a portion of the article which was written by Debbie Coffey, prior to the BLM roundup in 2010.

    The BLM’s Snow Job About Water on the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area
    Debbie Coffey Copyright 2010

    When we were on the June 14, 2010 public tour of the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area (HMA), the BLM said the BIG REASON they had to round-up our wild horses was because there WASN’T ENOUGH WATER. They took us by a spring east of Observation Peak, which was fenced off because it was on PRIVATE PROPERTY. The BLM said this spring fed Smoke Creek, which went south of the area. Aside from the actual spring itself, most of the creek/water runs south on public lands through the Twin Peaks Wilderness Study Area to the Smoke Creek Resevoir. The BLM took us to a cow-poop laden riparian area, showed us what looked like a puddle of water and talked more about how there was hardly any water and how all the creeks dry up in the summer.

    When we asked who owned the spring/water at Smoke Creek, the BLM officials coughed up the last name of Jaksick, but none of them seemed to know Jaksick’s first name. That’s funny, because in 2008, the Eagle Lake Field Office was involved in a $6 million deal/partnership with Sam Jaksick.

    An article by the Land Trust Alliance stated “BLM and the Nevada Land Conservancy have been working with landowners since 2003 for federal acquisition of the land in order to protect a wide variety of resources on the property. This is the largest and most complex SNPLMA (Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act) acquisition done to date, with more than a hundred distinct parcels with appurtenant water rights across three BLM administrative areas – the Winnemucca field office in Nevada, and the Surprise and Eagle Lake Field offices in California. The parcels, all within Nevada, are scattered throughout the Granite Range north of Gerlach, and include portions of Buffalo Hills, Twin Peaks, and Poodle Mountain Wilderness Study areas, and range from high alpine meadows to sagebrush lowlands.”

    To give some background info on water in the area: In 2008, UC Davis geologist Graham Fogg, (in talking about the water around Cedarville and Surprise Valley, just north of Twin Peaks) stated that “95% of circulating water is underground. You can’t see it, but it’s there.”


  12. Heavy Cop Presence at Twin Peaks Keeps Contractor Hiding Place Off Limits
    by Steven Long

    Armed Law Enforcement Out Number 4 Credentialed Reporters at Wild Horse Stampede

    TWIN PEAKS, CA (Horseback) – A heavy, armed police presence protected America and the Federal Bureau of Land Management wild horse stampede contractor from four journalists and no anti-BLM activists at the “gather” held today at Twin Peaks, according to Horseback Magazine’s R.T. Fitch at the site. There were two reporters and a photographer representing the Texas based magazine, as well as a videographer working for the New York Times, a paper which was provided unfettered access earlier this week while other media organizations and citizen observers were kept at bay.

    “Why are we being kept away,” the Times photog asked, incredulous that she wasn’t given the same deferential treatment as her colleagues had been afforded earlier in the week before Horseback Online exposed BLM’s media favoritism and attempt spin its story to the powerful national paper.

    She was told the captured horses were being held on private land and the landowner had prohibited outsiders from coming on his property, the usual reason BLM has refused access to its trap sites


  13. BLM Horses Don’t Founder
    August 20, 2010
    HOUSTON, (Horseback)
    When Horseback Magazine asked the federal Bureau of Land Management for a report on the number of horses suffering from laminitis after being stampeded by a roaring helicopter, we actually expected an answer. What we got instead was a tap dance.

    Twin Peaks Roundup Litchfield Corral 8.13.10.WMV


  14. BLM’s Wild Horse Stampede Contractor Exposed as Deceptive

    Dave Cattoor, “I’m not going to give them the one shot that they want”
    It was subtle, it was sweet and done with such professional flair that most people would have missed it on the first go around but a second viewing cements the words and causes the jaws to drop.

    Clare Major, of the New York Times, caught on video BLM Wild Horse Stampede contractor Dave Cattoor discussing with his company and BLM personnel the process of killing a horse, that his firm would injure, and how to hide it and dispose of it in such a manner that the public and press would not see it or become aware of the incident. How sweet is that?

    D.Cattoor: If something happens, we’re going to correct it quickly –
    Wrangler: Okay.

    D.Cattoor: — just like we talked about. If it’s a broken leg, we’re going to put it down.
    Wrangler: Okay.

    D.Cattoor: Slide it on the trailer, same thing, and go to town with it.
    Wrangler: Okay.

    D.Cattoor: We’re not going to give them that one shot they want.
    Wrangler: Okay. You got it.”


  15. Two comments here (after a thanks for the report).

    One is that I understood Palomino Valley was full last summer at around 2,000 horses… so where did half that number disappear to?

    The other is the suggestion that tissue samples be carefully taken on finding a horse dead under unexplained circumstances. From some of my research it is clear that wild horses are consistently and repeatedly being exposed to prions and repeated exposures have produced prion-related fatalities in other mammals formerly thought to be unaffected due to the blood-brain barrier. It is at least possible some of the missing mustangs may be dying off and the carcasses eaten so no evidence would be found other than occasional bones. I am not an alarmist but realize this is a small but distinct and growing prospect.


    • ps, hate to say this but on watching the video recognized the tune playing (it’s a favorite) and is too long to be in compliance I think… so this video will probably be pulled from YouTube without a correction. Gotta give the artists their due concerning copyrights folks!


  16. After watching this viseo, I sure would like to roun d up some Blm and catoor people in exactly the same way !!!!!!! They make me sick , lousey freaks !!!!!!!


Care to make a comment?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.