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State Herd Area: McCullough Peaks (WY)

The McCullough Peaks Herd Management Area is located 12 to 27 miles east of Cody, Wyoming (approximately 50 miles east of Yellowstone Park). The herd management area encompasses 109,814 acres of land. The climate is typical of a cold desert. The average annual precipitation ranges from 5 to 9 inches. Topography is highly variable, ranging from mostly flat to slightly rolling foothills carved by drainages, to colorful badlands, and to desert mountains featuring steep slopes, cliffs, and canyons.

A diversity of coat colors (bay, brown, black, sorrel, chestnut, white, buckskin, gray, palomino, roan) and patterns (such as piebald and skewbald) can be found in the McCullough Peaks wild horses. The animals tend to be moderate- to large-sized for light horses. Habitat conditions are such that the horses are in very good condition. The combination of size, conformation, coat colors and patterns, and excellent physical condition have become a draw for potential adopters and a matter of reputation for "McCullough Peaks' horses.

The current wild horse population in the McCullough Peaks HMA is estimated to be 150 animals. The appropriate management level is 70 to140 animals. Horses in the McCullough Peaks HMA usually have adequate water from winter snows and spring runoff, which fill reservoirs and intermittent streams. No predation of wild horses has been documented in the HMA and it is considered to have little or no effect on the wild horse population.

Rangelands in the McCullough Peaks HMA provide seasonal grazing for cattle. The herd area also provides yearlong habitat for antelope, mule deer, sage grouse, Hungarian partridge, chukar, various raptors, furbearers, songbirds and small mammals. Other game species that have been seen in the herd area are elk, whitetail deer, mountain lion, and black bear. Mountain plovers (a proposed threatened and endangered species) are likely to inhabit the area.

Approximately two-thirds of the herd area is badland-type vegetation of saltbush-grass. The remaining one-third is a sagebrush-grass type. Big sagebrush, Nuttall’s saltbush, greasewood, bluebunch wheatgrass, western wheatgrass, needle-and-thread, Indian ricegrass, blue grama, Sandberg bluegrass and saltgrass are the major plant species.

Whistle Creek and Coon Creek are two ephemeral streams that originate in and flow from the herd area. There are scattered cottonwood and willow trees along these two drainages. Dry Creek, which also supports riparian/wet land vegetation, is a perennial stream that flows through the southeast part of the herd area. There are numerous reservoirs scattered throughout the herd area.

Because of the use demands on riparian areas, management considerations have focused on protecting these areas from depletion. Fencing and utilization levels and rotations of domestic livestock have been effective tools in maintaining and improving the qualities of riparian ecosystems. Achieving and maintaining wild horse numbers at Appropriate Management Levels is an important factor in enhancing riparian function.

The public enjoys seeing wild horses roaming free in the McCullough Peaks herd management area. Visitor use has not been documented due to its random nature and the fact that anyone is free to drive out and see wild horses, but appears to be on the increase. There has been an increased interest in recreational permits to take people on tours to view the wild horses. Other recreational uses of the general area include hunting, mountain biking, horseback riding, ATV use, sightseeing, and photography.

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