Wild Horses & Burros
BLM California manages wild horses and burros in accordance with the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971. This Act gave the BLM the responsibility to protect wild horses and burros, while ensuring their populations are managed to maintain or restore a thriving ecological balance.
California’s free roaming wild horses and burros roam over 7.1 million acres of public land and an additional 2.3 million acres of non-BLM land. California's appropriate management level (AML) is currently 1,746 horses and 453 burros. California contains 33 herd areas (HAs) with 22 herd management areas (HMAs). Herd areas are geographic areas where wild horse or burro populations were found at the passage of the Wild Horse and Burro Act in 1971. Herd management areas are areas within the herd areas where the BLM manages populations of wild horses and burros. The BLM staff studied natural resources such as vegetation and wildlife to help determine the AML, taking into consideration uses such as livestock grazing and recreation.
The horse herds in California consist mostly of released ranch and Spanish stock as well as cavalry remount stock from World War I. The average California horse is 14 to 16 hands high and weighs 800 to 1100 pounds. Historical data show that burro herds come from abandoned or escaped mining stock. The wild burros average 11 to 12 hands high and weigh 500 to 600 pounds.
When herd sizes exceed the appropriate management level or resource damages occurs, animals are gathered and offered for adoption. Other factors may come into play that require the BLM to remove some animals from the range, such as drought, lack of forage, public nuisance or wildfires.
California has two wild horse and burro preparation facilities where you can visit or adopt your very own California wild horse or burro. We have a facility in Litchfield, outside Susanville, and we have one in Ridgecrest. We also have a small adoption facility in Redlands in southern California. In addition, the BLM holds satellite adoptions throughout California. California is proud to say that we strive to do compliance inspections on all adopted animals. Compliance checks are done by employees and volunteers.