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About the Diamond HMA Complex Wild Horses
Condition of the Diamond HMA Wild Horses
During the 2013 gather, wild horse body condition was carefully documented. Wild horse body condition – especially mares and foals – was less than ideal due to lack of forage on the range. Most of the gathered Diamond HMA horses were showing ribs, back bone and hip bones and there was no forage left on the range to support them.
Why Release Gathered Wild Horses Back to the HMA?
The goal was to be able to release wild horses back to the HMA in case the Appropriate Management Level of 151 in the Diamond HMA was impacted by high mortality rates from poor body conditions and low forage availability. High mortality with the remaining wild horses on the range could have detrimental impacts to the future genetic diversity of the HMA and the Complex. Because of the poor condition of the horses and the rangeland, it was determined that no wild horses should be released back to the range at that time. The horses were thin, and with no forage left, it could mean months of continued weight loss and suffering until hoped for spring growth might provide much needed nutrients.
Why Aren’t the Diamond 30 Being Returned to the HMA?
The BLM returned to the HMA in the spring to monitor forage and water, and to conduct an inventory to document the existing wild horse population. If there had been high mortality, the wild horses and their offspring would be considered for release back to the HMA. If there had not been high mortality, and the population was close to the AML, the “Diamond 30” would not be released.
Monitoring of the range in April and June, and an inventory flight of the entire Complex in July, showed conditions on the range were much improved, with forage growth, and moderate to good vigor of the horses in most locations, particularly higher elevations. Lower elevations showed some reduced growth and vigor but were showing signs of recovery from drought. Livestock use throughout the HMA was substantially reduced through voluntary non-use and changes to the seasons of use to allow for continued recovery of the forage.
Early monitoring indicated that the estimate of 79 wild horses left on the Diamond HMA at the end of the gather was low, and that more horses were in the HMA than originally anticipated. Body condition of the horses coming out of winter was mixed. Some appeared gaunt and underweight, sure signs of their hard winter. Others were in good condition, a testament to their resiliency on the range. Overall, the number of foals observed was low.
The inventory flight in July brought some surprising results. Overall, the observers discovered a lot more horses than expected on the range, more than should have been present following the 2013 gather. The estimated 161 wild horses on the range following the gather were inventoried at nearly 500 horses as observed during the flight by three trained observers via a direct count. In the Diamond HMA, 209 wild horses were observed, with 21 or 10% of those being identified as foals. At this point, the BLM doesn’t have an explanation for the increased population observed, especially after a gather that removed 792 horses from the Complex. We are working to improve the inventory methods, tracking in the field, and will be seeking to implement innovative ways to improve the knowledge of wild horse movement in the area.
The genetics results for the 30 horses sampled from the Diamond HMA and an additional 25 samples from the Diamond Hills North HMA in the Complex indicate high genetic diversity of the horses with no signs of inbreeding. The report recommends future monitoring given the moderately low AML for the Complex and the number of low frequency variants at risk of future loss.
The results of the genetic sampling of the Diamond HMA reflect similarity to Light Racing and Riding breeds, North American Gaited Breeds with indications of an association with the Morgan breed. Copies of the genetics reports will be available to the interested public.
With the high number of wild horses remaining on the Complex following the gather, the BLM has determined that it is neither necessary nor prudent to release the Diamond 38 back to the range.
Diamond Complex Location and Topography
The Diamond Complex is located within Central Nevada within the Great Basin, north of Eureka, Nevada in Elko, Eureka and White Pine counties. The Diamond Complex consists of the Diamond Mountain Range and the Diamond Hills, Baily Mountain, Sadler Basin and Garcia Flat located north of the Diamond Range. The Complex is bordered in the south by U.S. Highway 50, on the east by State Highway 892 in Newark Valley and on the west by agricultural fields and the Diamond Valley playa.
Topography of the Diamond Range is steep and rugged with elevations that range between 5,400 feet in the valleys to over 10,000 feet at the top of Diamond Peak. Much of the rangeland at lower elevations consists of Wyoming big sagebrush and greasewood communities. Pinyon and juniper are prevalent in the mid elevations. The area provides important habitat for a number of wildlife species including Greater Sage-Grouse, mule deer, pronghorn, and migratory birds. Wildfire has been a frequent occurrence at the north end of the Complex and along the western slopes of the Diamond Range, and cheatgrass dominance is common in the burned areas.