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The Wests’ most famed wild horse herd is facing a round-up.

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One of American Wests’ most famed wild horse herd may be rounded up and sold at an auction. In an area in the Pine Nut Mountains east of Gardnerville, Nevada there is wild horse herd known as the Fish Spring’s herd. This herd has many bands in it. I have counted at least 5 different band or family units in the Fish Spring’s herd. Bands known as the Blue’s band, Blondies band, Zorro’s band, Socks band, and Rogue’s band. The bands are named after the lead stallion. There are so few wild horses on that range that wild horse advocates, photographers and locals name the horses. The Fish Spring’s herd also has a volunteer group who used to control their population through the use of PZP. But the Bureau of Land Management put a halt to their operation. That volunteer group is known as the Pine Nut Wild Horse Advocates and their website is at this link>>>>>http://www.wildhorseadvocates.org/.

Wild Horse Tourism

This past winter locals and fans of the horses had to attend meetings hosted by the Bureau of Land Management over the pending round-up of their famed horses. I had reached out to the locals through a blog to inform them that as a tourist I have spent thousands of dollars in their town just to see that wild horse herd. In other words instead of spending my money in their casino’s, I spent my money in or around Gardnerville Nevada just because of that wild horse herd.

Why the Fish Spring’s Herd?

The Fish Springs herd genetic make-up is from South American Criollos and Exmoor Pony. The Exmoor pony has been given endangered status in the British Isles.

Somehow last year I became aware of that herd, so I visited them. My first visit to see that herd was incredible. I’ll never forget my first visit. No one can see the Fish Spring’s herd unless you have a 4×4 or an ATV, or a helicopter or plane. The road into the range to see them is full of boulders or rocks the size of watermelons. It is never easy to go out and see that herd in action, but once you figure out how to deal with those off-road conditions you’ll be amazed at what you can observe. My first visit I photographed new life on the range and death on the range. I saw horses happy in their family units and I saw wild horses grieve over the loss of their bandmate.

History

Wild horses also known as Mustangs roam free on our ranges and in our wilderness areas in the United States. The Bureau of Land Management manages or maintains the herds. Wild horses can be found in Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, California, Montana, Idaho, Florida, Colorado and Wyoming. There are also wild horses herds in North Carolina. When the BLM determines there are too many wild horses they initiate round-ups or gathers. The BLM states when the wild horse populations exceed appropriate management levels they start with the round-ups. In other words when there are too many horses on public land they take action. The Bureau of Land Management also initiates round-ups in the name of protecting the land and preserving a bird. Often the BLM will initiate round-ups to preserve sage grouse habitat. Sage Grouse are birds that live on and in our wilderness areas. In 2010 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) stated the decline in the Sage Grouse populations warrants them to be protected under the U.S. Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). However it was later determined that many other species are endangered and they want them on the endangered list, but not the Sage Grouse. The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) investigated the Sage Grouse habitat and concluded cattle were mostly responsible for the decline in Sage Grouse habitat. They never determined that wild horses were responsible for the destruction of the Sage Grouse habitat.

Laws that are supposed to Protect Wild Horses

In 1971 Richard M. Nixon signed into law the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of (WFRHBA). That act is supposed to cover “the management, protection and study of “unbranded and unclaimed horses and burros on public lands in the United States.” In 1950 Velma Bronn Johnston, also known as “Wild Horse Annie became aware of the extremely cruel and harsh conditions wild horses were facing so she helped pass the Hunting Wild Horses and Burros on Public Lands Act in 1959, but that law did not properly address the needs of the horses on public lands. As a result of the Public Rangelands Improvement Act (PRIA),[42] the BLM established 209 herd management areas (HMAs) where feral horses were permitted to live on federal land. However in 2004 a man by the name of Conrad Burn’s prepared what is known as the Burns Amendment, which “effectively allows the BLM, after rounding up free-roaming wild horses, to sell “without limitation” and placing them in jeopardy of commercial processing (slaughter) because once sold they are no longer under the protection of the Act.”

Round-ups

Wild horses love their families and their freedom, but after they are rounded-up they lose all of that. When the Bureau of Land Management decides the amount of horses exceed the appropriate management area (AML) they organize the rounding up of the excess horses. In all round-ups helicopters are used to corral the horses into holding pens. From those pens they are taken too adoption centers and either are put up for adoption or sold at auctions. Many times they are sold at auctions to kill-buyers. Several kill-buyers have in the past been charged with abusing the horses they bought. Wild horses are often die in those round-ups or are severely injured. Often wild horses are adopted by people who are willing to care for them and or train them to perform real life duties. When helicopters are used to round them up animal rights activists have witnessed;

  • Helicopters pursuing horses too closely and for too long;
  • Excessive and inappropriate use of electric prod, based on animal welfare experts’ review of the videos;
  • Kicking, pinning horses in gates and twisting of tails during loading.

Wild horses could be rounded-up into extinction.

 

Controlling Population

Sometimes the populations of wild horses can be controlled through the use of a pesticide known as PZP or porcine zona pellucida. “Two versions of the vaccine are currently in use – one version, known as Zonastat-H, is implemented through ground-darting programs and is only effective for approximately one year. The second version, known as PZP-22, is effective for 1-2 years but must be hand-injected into a captured wild horse.” Volunteer groups often are the ones’ who use the PZP type that is used to dart mares. Mares are female horses. However lately the BLM has denied permission to those volunteer groups, so the populations are growing.

What can you do?

Firstly I wish folks would re-think the wild horses. At this point in time they are no longer feral or estrays they are Mustang’s, and they all have backgrounds and genetic make-ups or bloodlines that are so precious and rare they deserve protection. If their bloodlines are wiped out then horses will never have diverse origination. In the end we may find their bloodlines or genetic make-up preserved in zoos.

Contact the Bureau of Land Management. Explain to them rounding up our famed herds is unacceptable and cruel. Please especially mention the Fish Springs herd in western Nevada.

Wild Horse and Burro Information Call Center 866-4MUSTANGS
(866-468-7826)
E-mail wildhorse@blm.gov

CALIFORNIA

California State Office
2800 Cottage Way, Suite 1623
Sacramento, California 95825
(916) 978-4400

Litchfield Off-Range Corrals
474-000 Highway 395 East
Litchfield, CA 96117
(800) 545-4256

Ridgecrest Off-Range Corrals
3647-A Randsburg Wash Road
Ridgecrest, CA 93562
(800) 951-8720

NEVADA

Nevada State Office
1340 Financial Blvd.
Reno, NV 89502
(775) 861-6500

National WH&B Adoption Center at Palomino Valley
P.O. Box 3270
Sparks, NV 89432
(775) 475-2222

And please visit this website>>>https://americanwildhorsecampaign.org/action

A Horse Tale

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On the Memorial Day 2016 weekend I set out on a wild horse adventure to an area in western Nevada known as the Pine Nut Mountains. I knew the area where I would have wild horse encounters were only accessible via 4×4 vehicles. I rented a Jeep Cherokee.

The first night on the Pine Nut Mountains I camped out on the range, but the weather conditions made for an uncomfortable night. So the next two nights I made my base camp Crystal Springs campground nearby, but it was across the Nevada/California border.

My first night at the campground I was able to get on the range by 8am. That was when I had my first wild horse encounter. I saw the band or group of wild horses alone in the desert seemingly having a meeting. I stopped and photographed that moment.

This is what I determined through research and knowledge of their behavior.

img_7104This wild horse caught my attention because he was waving his tail dramatically and making loud whinny sounds. The sounds coming from that horse were not sounds I heard before from other horses. This horse was also hoofing at something in the desert. I later discovered this horse was hoofing at one of his deceased band mates.

 

 

 

I observed and watched and tried to read the scene. I scanned around and realized a notorious stallion named Zorro by wild horse advocates was barking at a group of horses.
Zorro was seemingly trying to take a horse away from the group?

I then sat still and again tried to figure out was going on, but then I suddenly realized their was a deceased horse on the ground, and the horse who was whining loudly and waving his tail wildly pointed me to the carcass.

I then retreated and tried to process the scene, but I wasn’t smart enough, but after observing them for the remainder of the year and then using what I learned and returning to my photos I then concluded what I witnessed.

In the end a horse named Zorro, who killed more than his fair share of fellow horses, bowed down to the one horse on the range who allowed him to claim a dame.

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Observed Wild Horses in Nevada

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On Memorial Day weekend I once again visited our nation’s wild horses. This time I visited the herd on the Pine Nut Mountain Range in Nevada. That area is an HMA or a herd management area, which means they are “are lands under the supervision of the United States Bureau of Land Management that are managed for the primary but not exclusive benefit of free-roaming ‘wild’ horses and burros.” During previous visits to see wild horses I mostly concentrated my observation of them on the Virginia Range, which is geographically north of the Pine Nut’s. I targeted this herd because they have advocates that speak for them and maintain them. In other word’s they have people who look after them. It is my opinion the wild horse herd in the Pine Nut’s are very special because of the bonds they form between each other. Wild horses are considered by some, to simply be feral horses. Brought on by economic desperation or owners who simply became too poor to care for them, but, after they are in the wild, they are wild again. Wild horses do indeed become themselves after they are free to roam on the ranges. They form their own families, socialize with each other, they adopt or raise their own off spring, they have leaders, followers, babysitters, and bosses, and many become best friends’. Observing wild horses is simply the most amazing experience a wildlife photographer could do for themselves.

Big horn sheep

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I went on a road trip to Anaconda, Montana with a friend to hang out with friends and participate in a few events. Firstly the drive from San Francisco to Anaconda, Montana takes at least 16 hours. But since I drove with a friend we did a through drive. We arrived in Anaconda at approximately 4:30a.m.

A lot of stuff happened in Anaconda and I’ll write another story about my road trip with a friend.

However I would like to introduce you to some of the wildlife I was able to photograph in Anaconda ; big horn sheep.

Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep (Ovis Canadensis)

Big Horn Sheep crossed the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia, and at times reached a population of millions. Big horn sheep are susceptible to disease from livestock, and many of them are often dispatched due to that issue. There are three sub-species of big horns, Rocky Mountain big horn, Sierra Nevada big horn and Desert big horn. The sub species in Montana seems to be Rocky Mountain big horn. The herds in that area have in the past, been culled due to disease.

The mating season for big horns is November. The herds segregate according to age and sex. Ewes, lambs and yearling males will band together, and some adult male’s (ram’s) band together by classes. Big horn sheep are herbivores, however you see in the photos they are licking the salt off the road to supplement their mineral intake.

In 2010 a driver ran into seven rams and one ewe killing them. The driver claimed he did not see the warning signs. Some of the big horns are collared either to trigger road side signs or to monitor their health. The collars are also used to determine where they die.

 

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YOU COMING? Another Precious Urban Coyote Encounter

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You Coming? An Urban Coyote Encounter

I think this is a female, who is pregnant, maybe why she has a pack of male Coyotes, who come running to protect her? I will find out.
Today I walked up on this Coyote while he/she(?) was laying down on the ground. There were duck feathers everywhere, then I noticed bone fragments, a partial head, and a foot from this Coyote’s last meal.
When a Coyote takes off running their initial stance is so confident and wrought with strength that you can feel and hear them. Today my heart skipped a beat when I walked up on this Coyote and it ran off. They always seem scared at first, but after while they seem to entice me or lead me on.
‪#‎beingmyself‬ ‪#‎urban‬ ‪#‎coyote‬

Coyote Encounter Pine Lake area in Stern Grove in San Francisco

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After reading a new’s clip about a Coyote attacking a pet dog in the Stern Grove area in San Francisco I decided to track them down. My first visit to that area there was scant evidence of their presence other than the warning signs. The second time I did not find any evidence of their presence, but on the 3rd visit I had an encounter and mistakenly walked through their den.

I heard noises in the leaves and debris, they’re were no domestic dogs around and I saw no birds, so I followed the sound. I kept my head-on-a-swivel so-to-speak and focused on looking for movement. Then off to the left corner of my left eye I noticed movement. The movement was a Coyote.

I checked it out for a few minutes and watched pet dog’s walk right by the Coyote and they didn’t even know it. Even the pet dog owners couldn’t see the Coyote. I continued to watch the Coyote for about 10 minutes and then decided to walk off. I now know their are Coyotes in Stern Grove in San Francisco.

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Night Hike in Point Reyes

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Night Hike

The days in San Francisco had been hot to cloudy, to hot again. I was tired of the stop lights, the people, and the smells. I needed to get away, but I didn’t want to waste my time away from the City.

So I booked a bed at the hostel at Point Reyes, and that’s where I would spend the next 3 days.

From the ocean, to the bay’s, to the beaches, to the Estero’s, to the cliffs, to the lakes, to the lagoons, and to the forest, Point Reyes is a wilderness. It is however locked in by an ocean and roads, so eventually I believe you’d run into either if you ever got lost.

I discovered Point Reyes over 10 years ago while on a day trip with my partner. She showed me Point Reyes, she knew that land could be my equal. She told me “You’re going to love this place!” And she was right.

I go to Point Reyes at least 6 times a year. I have reported on, through my citizen journalism the plight of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, which is now shut down. But I used to go there, on each visit and buy and eat raw oysters. It used to be a real treat.

Limantour Spit Point Reyes

There are many hiking options in Point Reyes, but my newly discovered best hikes are at night. I’ve done night hiking before in the Point Reyes wilderness, but never an 11 mile one.

Time was slowly ticking by, I’m at the hostel in Point Reyes, and I got a small nap before 11pm, so I was sort of rested. I was still not 100% re-hydrated from the hike onto Limantour Spit from earlier that day. But I had plenty of fluids, and I had some food and some energy chews.

I was nervous, I felt my first sense of apprehension, and questioned myself. Am I being stupid? Is this immature and thus too dangerous? I wasn’t sure, all I knew is that I had to do it. I had to night hike 11 miles through the Point Reyes wilderness by myself. I wasn’t prepared with my cameras because I was a bit nervous, but I did have on my GoPro and I took my Canon DSLR. I had a 170 lumen headlamp and a 120 lumen handheld flash light. I also had a strobe light, and I had glow sticks. I had a knife and pepper spray. I put on insect repellant and taped up my pants leg.

…..Wow, I was scared.

I got on the trail around 11:30pm, there was nothing on the roadway leading to the path.

It was quiet, foggy, cloudy, and drizzly, but not too cold.

No sounds, just quietness, until I got to the trail head. As soon as I stepped two feet past the trail head, the sounds, those sounds, they came on strong, no fade in, sounds you’d expect to hear from a wilderness. I stopped, listened, gasped. Then I just did it, I put one foot in front of the other, and soon I was committed to that trail at night. I had 11 miles to go.

I kept taking breaths, until I became aware, there were beings around me. Lots of them. Black hulks moving around me, away from me and some towards me. Then I felt something cover my face, something thread like and popping like strings when they break. Then I felt crawling, something was on my face, they just kept coming at me until I STOPPED. When I started walking again they threads kept hitting me in my face. I then realized I was walking through spider webs. Webs so big they crossed a 5 foot wide trail. I felt things crawling on my face, but I wiped it off and came up with a plan. I picked up a loose branch and used it to knock down any webs that are ahead. It worked for a while. I was now second guessing my hike. Shall I retreat or shall I go forward?

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Spider Webs.

I once again put one foot in front of the other and was now hiking again. I kept beating down the webs. Then I heard a buzzing sound like bees only louder, I could see bugs, but how? It was foggy. I just kept moving forward. The buzzing grew louder as I walked on then suddenly about 60 feet later the buzzing stopped. I froze, and when I looked around with my light, I noticed everything was a big hulking black mass. Some moving, some not. That’s when I got my first adrenaline rush, I knew something was watching me, there had to be an animal out here.

After about a mile I stopped for a minute, to think about where I was? I saw shiny things on the ground, it was pitch black, but the things I saw, shined in the light of my flashlight. So I decided to sit. Going through my backpack looking for some food, I heard rustling, thumping, stomping then a yipe, then a growl, then a yipe, then a growl, I looked up, 4 dogs(first thought’s in my mind), actually Coyotes were looking at me, I saw teeth, heard growls, so I got up, and f_ckin ran, down a hill, stepping on Coyote scat, amongst gopher holes, sink holes, uneven terrain, lots of scat, down a hill, in the dark, scared, unknowing, until I slammed into a white gate?

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The White Gate at Night

I then felt safer, but I learned the shiny things on the ground were bones.

I entered through the white gate, but up ahead was another large black mass, three of them to be exact. I stepped slowly, step by step one foot in front of the other. Keep in mind it is pitch black, and I was learning that my eyes had a difficult time focusing between super bright flashlights to the darkness, so I decided to keep walking without the lights off. I had only hiked 3 miles thus far and had 8 more to go.

The sounds, oh those sounds, so close and in stereo? The Coyote yelps, barks, and howls were in stereo. I knew I was surrounded by Coyotes, and now and then I would see them run off the path in front of me into the bushes. The bushes I had been walking along side. Every now and then I would hear a growl, but I felt the Coyotes were more afraid of me than I was them.

At this point in my hike I could hear the Tule elk. If you have never heard the sound of the Tule elk you could assume there are children screaming in the wilderness. Every now and then their calls can be horse like. Tule elk will keep themselves at least a 100 feet from people, unless you happen to walk up on them.

I kept walking, but I now realized I am going to have to go around the three large black masses that were up ahead of me. Yup, there were 3 cows in the pitch black that I had to reckon with. They did not like seeing me out there in the dark on their trail, but they had the trail blocked.

I stopped, strategized and made my move, I walked right through the 3 cows, and they didn’t even care. So now I had a long walk ahead of me, I was on the Estero trail in Point Reyes, and I was hell bent on making it to Drakes Head. So I walked and walked and walked and I started sweating, and it was colder out, so I bundled up.

One hour later I made it to Drakes Head, but I couldn’t see a thing because it was very dark, cloudy or foggy. I could see whimpers of light coming from the lifeboat station in Drakes Bay.

So I sat for a minute ate some food and started walking again. It was now 2:30a.m. And I realized that maybe I can make it back before first light. I started walking again, but this time off trail a bit. 15 minutes later, something started jumping on me and hitting my pants legs, and of course I freaked out, but when I turned on my lights I noticed there were hundreds of grasshoppers all around me. So I went back on the trail. 30 minutes later I realized the area I was in was really warm, and humid. I never figured that out, suddenly I was walking along and it’s nighttime in an area known for fog and changing weather patterns, but the area was really warm.

I continued on, the sounds really started scaring me, so I stopped messed around with my cameras a bit, and kept on going.

I was now off Drakes Head and walking along feeling kind of weird, but then suddenly 3 large black masses walked in front of me, going downhill, missing me by mere feet, they stirred up dust and they all screamed. I then concluded I almost got run over by Tule elk. They didn’t know I was there and vice versa. They kept going downhill and I kept walking straight ahead.

About 30 minutes later on the path in front of me I saw a low lying animal I thought it was a raccoon, but it was much more aggressive than a raccoon, and ran towards me for a second until I turned on my lights. Skunk? Oh crap, a skunk, a really large skunk. It ran towards me until I retreated about a ¼ mile. I waited a minute then proceeded to walk again in the same direction. The skunk was gone, but not it’s smell.

I was now in an area that flanks an Estero, a path with large bushes, shrubbery or undergrowth that towers over a person. Spider webs were in abundance, and I was starting to itch.

During the last 4.7 mile stretch I saw animals on the path in front of me and I could tell there are animals all around me. I guess I was never a threat to them because not one animal came after me. They were all tolerant.

I kept walking, the noises on all sides of me were intimidating. They would have scared the toughest person on the planet. You don’t know if you’re going to be attacked and you don’t know if something will jump on me.

Hiking at night is very surreal experience. I do not recommend it for people who get scared easily and or have bad hearts. Hiking during the day, you have a huge safety zone, you can see things coming, and or going, you can identify other beings easily, and you can always see where you’re going. But hiking at night the only safety zone is your immediate area. I like to hike at night for the challenge, but it is not for everyone.

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Plants, rocks, bones, and some fencing glow at night.

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Trail signs at night

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