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State Herd Area: Buck and Bald (NV)

The Buck and Bald wild horse herd is managed by the Ely Field Office for an appropriate management level of 400 wild horses. This number was developed based on evaluation of the horses' habitat which indicated that between 340 and 460 wild horses could be sustained in the area without interrupting the delicate balance of the ecosystem. In order to keep wild horse numbers in balance with their environment, the BLM periodically gathers wild horses from the range and places them into the National Wild Horse adoption program. Between 1985 and 1999, a total of 3,020 wild horses were captured from the Buck and Bald HMA, and a total of 2,292 wild horses were removed.

Wild horses in the area can be found throughout the HMA at different times of the year. Typically, horses will remain at the upper elevations during the summer as long as the forage and water hold out. As these resources are depleted, or when snow drives them down (as early as September in some years), they move off the mountain and into the valleys. Here they exist on the sparse grasses such as Sandberg's bluegrass, needle and thread grass, and Indian rice grass. In addition to grasses, horses in the region have adapted to a diet dominated by the dominant shrubs such as white sage and salt bush.

The history of the Buck and Bald wild horse herd is somewhat clouded. Few people visited the area before fairly recent times. The Pony Express trekked through the area, and is likely to have been a major source of horses during its decline. Ranches also no doubt contributed to the wild horse population during the late 1800's and early to mid 1900's. There may also have been transient horse management for the Army remount program which was active into the 1930's. Native Americans in Nevada did not use the horse, and Spanish explorers never found their way into the area.

Due to the probable ancestry of Buck and Bald wild horses, and the rigors of survival in this harsh environment, Buck and Bald wild horses can be very dependable sturdy riding and packing horses. Average heights vary depending on whether horses were born during drought years or not, but tend to be around 14 to 15 hands. Colors are also variable, but are dominated by the darker black, bay, chestnut, and sorrel. Variations on these basic colors are also common, including paint, pinto, palomino, and roan, and white markings occur on most animals. The Buck and Bald wild horse herd also contains a curly horse ancestry. Though the origin of this trait is not known, the pleasing and unique results are found in wild horses only from this geographic area.

Wild horse foals in Eastern Nevada are born in the spring, mostly during the month of April or May. Births are timed to coincide with spring green-up which would afford the most nutritious forage to nursing mares and foals. Wild horses are very social creatures and are formed into what's known as a matriarchal society. A matriarchal society is one which is led by a dominant female. This dominant mare is responsible for daily activities of the band. Contrary to popular belief, the stud serves the band in a secondary role only. He does influence the structure of the band and is responsible for gathering up the component mares and maintaining and protecting the group, but has little to do with daily activities.

Bands can range in size from two to twenty or more. Wild horse bands generally consist of one dominant stud, and one or more unrelated mares. Offspring either wander off or are forcibly ejected from the group before becoming reproductively mature to limit inbreeding. Young mares which leave their parental band are quickly gathered up into surrounding bands, while young studs join together into bachelor groups. Young studs will remain in bachelor herds for several years until they are mature enough to take their own mare group.

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