In 1971, wild horses and burros were found roaming across 53.8 million acres of Herd Areas (HAs), of which 42.4 million acres were under the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) jurisdiction. Today the BLM manages wild horses and burros in subsets of these HAs, known as Herd Management Areas (HMAs) that comprise 31.6 million acres, of which 26.9 million acres are under BLM management.
The Callaghan HMA is located approximately six miles north of Austin, Nevada, in Lander County. The area consists of 156,230 acres. The terrain across most of the former Shoshone-Eureka planning area managed by the Battle Mountain Field Office is typical of the Great Basin region with steep north and south trending mountain ranges separated by large sweeping valley bottoms. Elevations range from 10,200 feet at Mt. Callaghan, to 6,500 feet in Grass Valley to the east of the mountains and the Reese River Valley to the west. The mountain range is dissected by several creeks and streams. The Callaghan HMA is 16 miles wide and 28 miles long, sharing its northern boundary with the Bald Mountain HMA. It contains a portion of the north-south trending Toiyabe Range. Temperatures range in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer to less than 20 degrees below zero in the winter. Precipitation is in short supply with an annual total of only 5 to 16 inches.
In addition to wild horses, the HMA is often utilized by domestic cattle and domestic sheep. Wildlife species occurring in the area include mule deer, sage grouse, chukar, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, pronghorn antelope and numerous other small mammals, birds, and reptiles. Vegetation Vegetation types are distributed according to topography and elevation and the associated precipitation. Within the highest elevations, and subsequently the greatest precipitation, the vegetation consists primarily of pinyon pine and juniper trees, mountain mahogany and low sagebrush. The lower and drier elevations consist of saltbush, greasewood, sagebrush and a variety of annual and perennial grasses and wildflowers. In some areas it can take 25 acres to support one horse for a month.
The appropriate management level for the Callaghan HMA is 137-243 adult horses. Animals previously captured in this HMA were relatively large in size, ranging from 14-15 hh and 900-1,100 pounds. Although most of the animals were bay and sorrel, some paint (pinto), buckskin, grulla (mouse color), dun and Appaloosa horses were captured from the area. A few Curly horses were also captured.
The horses are traced back to domestic ranch horses used for ranching, transportation and mining when the areas were settled. Genetic analysis indicates that these horses are similar to domestic breeds with indications of Light Racing and Riding Breeds, North American Gaited Breeds, Morgan, Old Spanish, Old World Iberian and Oriental Breeds. The genetic variability of all of these herds is high and no signs of inbreeding are present in the genetics analysis.