BLM seeking public comments on proposals to manage wild horse population in northern Washoe County


Bureau of Land Management

BLM Office:

Applegate Field Office

Media Contact:

Horses in the high desert. Photo by the BLM.

ALTURAS, Calif. – The Bureau of Land Management today released for public review and comment a preliminary environmental assessment analyzing a range of alternatives for managing wild horses and burros on public lands in northern Washoe County, Nev.

“Our goal is to establish and maintain healthy wild horses on healthy lands in balance with other authorized range users,” said Craig Drake, manager of the BLM Applegate Field Office.  “The wild horse and burro populations in six herd management areas within the Surprise Complex have grown well beyond the population range established in our land-use plan. This EA examines the environmental impacts of several approaches that would reduce the overpopulation of wild herds over a 10-year period.  We also analyze the impacts of taking no action.”

The proposed alternative would gather excess wild horses and burros using a variety of methods including helicopter-assisted and bait trapping, adjust the wild population sex ratio to 60 percent males and 40 percent females, and treat females returned to the range with fertility control vaccines or IUDs to slow future growth.  Wild horses and burros removed from the range would be made available to the public through the BLM’s adoption and sale programs.

Wild horse and burro populations on public lands grow rapidly, typically doubling every 4-5 years. Managing herd population growth and reducing overpopulation over time will help ensure there are sufficient resources, such as forage and water, to sustain animals in good health throughout the year while allowing for other authorized uses of the land, such as for wildlife habitat and livestock grazing.

The document titled, “Surprise Complex Wild Horse and Burro Gather Plan,” is available online at the BLM’s planning website:  Copies in other formats are available by contacting Amanda Gearhart, the BLM Northern California District wild horse and burro program specialist, at 530-257-0456.

Public comments on the preliminary document will be useful to the BLM multi-disciplinary staff developing the final EA that would be issued along with a decision to implement the population management actions. To be most helpful, comments should be specific and received by Feb. 14, 2021.

Anyone interested can submit comments by email to  The BLM will also accept comments sent by mail to Bureau of Land Management, 708 W. 12th St., Alturas, CA 96101, Attn: Surprise Gather EA.

The Surprise Complex consists of the Massacre Lakes, Bitner, High Rock, Wall Canyon, Nut Mountain and Fox Hog herd management areas and covers nearly 397,000 acres east of Cedarville, Calif. in Washoe County, Nev.  Based on recent census flights and population growth estimates, the BLM estimates there are about 1,300 wild horses and burros in the six HMAs.  The appropriate management level is a range of 283 to 496 wild horses cumulative for all six HMAs.


Wild horses and burros are protected on BLM-managed lands by the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, a federal law. The law requires the BLM to determine population levels that allow wild herds to thrive in balance with other range users including wildlife and livestock and to remove excess animals from the range.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.