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Montezuma Peak and Paymaster

To view the Montezuma Peak and Paymaster Gather video, please visit our BLM Nevada YouTube website at www.youtube.com/BLMNEVADA.

Music lead in with video of the arid desert, scorching sun, and drying waterholes.

Wild horses have been idolized in literature and movies. A herd of horses running across endless space, manes blowing in the breeze, is a picture on most people’s minds. But, that picture is far from reality. The desert that makes up the Montezuma Peak and Paymaster Herd Management Areas, (HMAs), is one of the harshest places for wild horses and burros.

Shawna Richardson, Battle Mountain Wild Horse and Burro Specialist:
“The Montezuma Peak and Paymaster Herd Management areas are located northern part of the Mohave Desert. These areas get no more than 3 to 4 inches of precipitation annually. The average national is 29 inches of precipitation annually. As you can see across the landscape, there are mostly shrubs and there’s very few grasses. In fact, there’s an example right here, the grasses are small and they don’t comprise a large percentage of the plant community. Paymaster is also very steep and rugged and a lot of this area is inaccessible to wild horses most of the population spends most of its time outside in the Paymaster HMA.

In a desert environment that provides sparse vegetation and limited water resources, the BLM strives to maintain healthy wild horse populations.

Nancy Boland, Esmeralda County Commissioner:
I originally came to central Nevada in this area in 1978. When I came here, this area had a lot of vegetation in it. But, over the years, I’ve seen all the vegetation decline. The whole center of this Montezuma HMA is almost devoid of vegetation edible for a horse. I pass right through where all the horses are, and over the years I’ve seen many of them, starving to death. People, who do not live in the west, I don’t think, truly understand the circumstances that these animals live in. The kindness that they are trying to do, they are actually being very unkind to these horses and burros, because they don’t see the suffering these animals go through and they don’t come out here and look and say what are they suppose to eat. I really think it’s much more humane to keep them at levels where they can be healthy and happy.

The area is not only limited in vegetation, but its water resources are few and far in between. Indian Springs is one of the three waters sources left in the Montezuma HMA.

Dustin Hollowell, Wild Horse and Burro Specialist, Tonopah Field Office:
Out of these 3 it is the best one. It runs downhill and comes into this little catch pond here where most of the animals come to get the water. Realizing that each wild horse and burro needs 10 to 15 gallons of water per day, and if there’s dozens of wild horses and burros using this particular water source and the size of it, it’s really important source of water. The horses and the burros have to come for a long ways to use this particular spring.

In Paymaster, forage and vegetation are so sparse that the horses are thin.

Dennis Strahl, concerned citizen:
I started mining up in this area back about 5 years ago most people don’t picture horses living amongst Cholla cactus that’s what I was trying to think of , 18-inch tall sagebrush and rattle snakes, but that’s what’s here. I just saw something that really broke my heart. It was two dead horses, quite obviously from dehydration, you can see where they laid down and am I going to be able to get up again and they never did.

In their search for water, the wild horses have moved off the HMA drinking from any possible source. One such water source comes from the Tonopah sewer ponds because it is the only open water in the area.

Shawna Richardson:
The source of this of this water is the water from the Tonopah sewer treatment facility. It’s been treated but the BLM has several issues with this. It’s not a natural source and it could be rerouted or be made unavailable any time. If this water were to be turned off, a considerable number would have to trail to other sources many, many miles from here.”

When moving off the HMA, the wild horses present a problem for other wild animals, competing for limited resources. Despite the harsh conditions, the horse population grows 16 to 20% a year. Paymaster can only support 38 horses, but its population is 68. Montezuma peak cannot support a healthy horse population, but its present number of horses is 81. While Montezuma cannot support wild horses, it can support burros.

Shawna Richardson:
Wild horses are grazers and wild horses need grasses. The horses don’t have any nutritious forage, the water has dried up, the horses will decline in body condition and we’ll end up with an emergency. In the mid 1990s, the horses were starving, they were extremely thin, skin and bones and they were extremely sick. We don’t want our horses out here to suffer those types of consequences because these areas are just not suited for them. I own horses and it breaks my heart when I have to see that happen.

Burros on the other hand, can utilize these shrubs, they can go longer distances to water and go much longer time periods without water. We hope in the future that we can see improvement of these areas and be able to increase the number of burros.

Approximately 45 wild horses will be gathered from outside and inside the paymaster HMA, and about 78 wild horses and 61 burros will be gathered from within and outside the Montezuma Peak HMA so that the remaining wild horses and burros share the limited forage and water comfortably.

The gathered horses will be transported to a short term holding facility in Ridegcrest, California, where they are dewormed, vaccinated and checked by a licensed veterinarian. The horses are then available for adoption. More information about adoption can be found on the BLM website. Those horses, that are not adopted, are sent to long term pastures, where they roam freely the lush green grasslands of the Midwest.

Fade up music – video footage of horses in green pastures of long term holding.

For more information about the BLM’s wild horse and burro program, or to learn how you can adopt please contact us at:

Phone: 1-866-4Mustangs (1-866-468-7826)
Web: www.blm.gov
Email: wildhorse@blm.gov
Facebook: BLMWildHorseandBurro

Last updated: 10-01-2010