Wild Horses of Nevada
You see signs of wild horses before you ever see horses …
And, along the way, these signs …
From the point where I turned off the highway north of Las Vegas and headed west into wild horse country, I drifted under the speed limit in anticipation — watching for horses on the two-lane road that stretched straight to the foothills through BLM land.
I’d been told that at least one wild horse was euthanized on this road after being hit last year, So, with no one on my tail, and huge gravel turnouts if anyone did show up behind my car, I took my time, scanning the terrain for any anomalies that appeared horse-like.
My first glimpse of the wild horses was actually this view … which explains the “horse crossing” signs:
I pulled over and got out with my telephoto lens, but quickly realized the horses were spooked by loud activity in the area: nearby hunting and ATV noise. The constant pop of shotguns not too far off the road had the horses on high alert. Every time the shotguns fired, the herd stopped and turned in the direction of the shooters, then flattened their ears and trotted in the opposite direction.
I decided the last thing I wanted to do was add to any confusion or stress. So, using the car as a blind — which seemed to suit the horses fine — I took a few more photos as they crossed the road into yucca and scrub.
These wild horses, and other free-roaming herds in Nevada, fall under the auspices of the Bureau of Land Management Horse and Burro Program. The BLM stages “gathers” (or roundups) which are controversial, especially when the gathers result in wild horse distress and death. There are land management issues and water rights at stake, horse-advocacy lawsuits, and also measures to remediate some of the more inhumane facets of wild horse management. I’ll write a bit more about that in another post, along with information on the people and organizations (like Ginger Kathrens and Madeleine Pickens) who are trying to improve the outcomes for these beautiful animals.
Wow Ingrid, these are gorgeous animals! I have never seen a wild horse. I’m amazed at how stout, healthy and well kept they look, having never been introduced to humankind. I enjoyed the shot of your first look at the horses, guess I have a thing about butt shots 😉
All of your photos are beautiful captures of these wild animals. The black stallion looks quite formidable and the other three are simply beautiful. My favorite is the last shot of the three. They look so relaxed with you. Do you know what all the shooting was about? I hope they remain wild long after we humans are gone.
Hi, Larry! I hope you’re having an auspicious start to 2012~!
Thank you for the comments. Oh and … very funny on those butt shots. Have you seen the Flickr photo group that solicits animal butt shots? I only know about it (really, this is why) because I have a few behind shots of animals and was invited to join the group with those photos. Your images would definitely have been flagged for inclusion by the group moderator. He or she must have some automatic keyword trolling going on. 😉
As far as the horses being relaxed, there is a horse-friendly residential community not too far from where I took these shots (Cold Creek), and my understanding is that the horses have mostly positive encounters with most humans in their day-to-day. They weren’t spooked by my presence. I would say they were wary, though. The shotguns did cause them significant alarm, because they seemed so close.
At first I was hoping it was some target practice shooting (that’s always my hope when I hear shooting). But it is, after all, BLM land, open to hunting. And when I looked up local hunting regs, it appears that quail, rabbit and chukar shooting are big in that area, this time of year. I’m assuming it was some bird or rabbit hunters out in the scrub. There were several empty ATV trailers parked by the road.
It’s funny … I hear hunters complain often that there isn’t enough public land open to hunting. And yet, with all of the time I spend on public land, I have a very hard time finding areas where I *don’t* encounter hunting of one kind or another. I’ve grown a bit weary of the things I see out there in the wilds. I so miss the Bay Area — with its extensive network of state and regional parks. There are so many places around home to view and photograph wildlife, without having to deal with shooting. I know our State Parks are in jeopardy. That issue obviously hits very close to home, even though I am not — at this moment — home.
I’m in agreement with Larry, my favorite shot is the last one with all three of the horses. I love how they are all calmly looking at you and have the beautiful mountains in the background. I’ve only been able to photograph wild horses here once and that was from a considerable distance.
I’m very happy that you stopped by my blog and commented because that is how I found yours. I am looking forward to being a regular reader here now!
Mia, I think this location near Vegas might be unique in the sense that the horses have some relationship to the local residents. They were wary of me, but not terrified. Of course, although I’ve tried, I haven’t seen the wild horses in other parts of Nevada so I have no other framework for comparison. Where did you see the wild horses you photographed?
We have wild horses in the west desert of Utah but they are very skittish and that may be due to the fact that there aren’t that many people in that section of the state. I’ll keep trying to find and photograph them though because they are so beautiful.
Your pictures are amazing! These horses are so beautiful… Seeing them wild is a chance. A saw a wild specie named “pantaneira” when I went to Brazil (https://www.flickr.com/photos/sophielabelle/5063742072/in/set-72157626086850827). I have to admit that I’m still very jealous of your photos 😉