Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Blaze Of Glory: Final Days Of Freedom

(2011.JUN.29) - Northwestern Steptoe Valley - Nevada, USA

Blaze (as I have come to call him) is a bachelor stallion that originated from a band of wild horses that have become known as the ’’Cherry Creek Nine". He was forced out about two years ago, when he had reached maturity and became a contender to the patriarchy. Still, Blaze continues to stay fairly close to his first family, though now he wanders alone, waiting his chance to start a family of his own.

The Cherry Creek Nine inhabit a narrow strip of public land in northwestern Steptoe Valley (Nevada), and they are scheduled for removal by the BLM in early July.



His fate is grim. At four years of age, Blaze is too old to adapt well to captivity, and won't be very adoptable. He'll most likely be shipped (eventually) to a long-term holding facility in Oklahoma, to live out his days in captivity, among other geldings.

If the "gather" is "successful", Blaze will never again know freedom. Will never again follow the trail to water, that he has followed nearly every day since his birth on the open range. He will never reach his mustang potential; will never mate or sire a foal.



Blazing Stallion 2009


2008 - Just a pony, still at home with his family.
(Blaze is #3 in this parade.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

(2011.JUN.27) Goshute Creek Band of Wild Horses

(2011.JUN.27) Goshute Creek Band of Wild Horses has returned to the vicinity of their normal territory, though they are still about two miles south of Goshute Creek, along the eastern bench of the Cherry Creek Mountains, and west of the fence.

The big mare (far right) is a domestic horse, due to foal the first of July.
She belongs to a tenant at the Cherry Creek Ranch, and her straying into the wild band
may have been a factor in pushing through this gather.

Wild mustard (light green and orange) has already started going to seed, and cheatgrass (brownish purple) is a major source of fuel for wildfires. Cheatgrass is a good equine food source in its early green stages, but becomes undigestible as it matures. Removing horses from this range may contribute to the risk of range fires during the next summer cycle.

Monday, June 27, 2011

(2011.JUN.25) UPDATE: Cherry Creek Band Of Nine

2011.JUN.25) - Cherry Creek Band of Nine - four foals, four mares, and a stallion (all sorrels) have returned to their usual territory along the eastern bench of the Cherry Creek Mountains.

The Goshute Creek band is no longer to be seen in this small area - I would imagine they have returned to their home range to the north of Goshute Creek.

I spotted bachelor Blaze about four miles south of the CC band, east of the fence.
Most of the cattle have been gathered from the narrow strip of public land along Curry Road (WP CoRd 21), leaving a few scattered groups, for a total bovine count of about 3 dozen between Cherry Creek and Goshute Creek NV State Park. 
The gate to the park (an undeveloped campsite) is open.

The newest member of the tribe arrived mid-June, 2011

Heading down to water

Saturday, June 25, 2011

(2011.JUN.17) - SouthEastern Butte Mountain Bands

(2011.JUN.17) -  The wild bands inhabiting the eastern slopes of Butte Mountain are nearly impossible to get close to, on the ground. They graze in the open cleared areas, and shelter in the dense juniper and pinon forests above that. The old road is barely visible in places, and is littered with the corpses of long-dead tree stumps.

 Most often, I see clouds of dust, and hear them interacting with one another, vocally, and physically.
Butte Mountain - 2011.JUN.17

These horses  are most often observed in late afternoon, as they make their way across a narrow valley and up to the spring at Horse Canyon.  They are extremely shy, and will scatter at the least disturbance to their quiet environment -- which they share seasonally with an abundance of elk, a few deer and pronghorn antelope, and periodically, transitting sheep. Cattle are fed and watered in a broad area where crested wheat grows in abundance. I see the horses along the edges of this area, occasionally, but apparently they are not interested in the wheat grass.

Butte Mountain, Nevada

Based on glimpses and physical evidence in the form of scat, trails, and rising dust, I estimate there are 50-60 wild horses in the main herd.

This is a  diverse population, with a wide assortment of colors, including rare sabino roans, duns and buckskins, as well as many bays and blacks.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Long Valley Herds (in Triple B's)

(2011.JUN.23) Western Butte Mountains - Long Valley - White Pine Co., NV

The daytime temps are comfortable mid-70's up to 90 degrees, feeling cooler due to scattered cloud cover. Most of the snow is gone, and the land is beginning to show signs of summer dryness.  Vegetation is plentiful, though much of it is not of  benefit to horses. Cheat grass is abundant, and will provide some forage in its green stages, but becomes inedible once it matures and turns purple.
  • This does not mean that there is NO forage.  The green we see in the photographs is not all usable forage. Much of the vegetation is wild mustard and cheatgrass. Horses do not eat wild mustard, and cheatgrass is unsuitable forage in its mature stages. There is still plenty of good grass and forage in the hills.
Triple B's Wild Horse Area (WHA) is an enormous land area, encompassing several thousand acres of undeveloped high desert and alpine terrain. Much of this is accessible with four wheel drive ONLY, and should not be attempted with any low-profile vehicle.

Travel is very slow, and approaching wild animals is a challenge, to say the least!  They can see and hear approaching vehicles from miles away, and will typically move into the cover of juniper and pinon pine thickets to evade observation.

Snow-covered Ruby Mountains looking northwest across Butte Valley and the Butte Mountains
viewed from western Cherry Crrek Mountain Range

On this day, we covered a relatively small area, between the Old Stratton Ranch and Long Valley.

All tolled, we saw about one hundred horses, mostly in bands of 8-12 scattered along the western foothills of the Butte Mountain Range, and two larger herds (20-30 in each) around a spring on Mount Hamilton.

On Mount Hamilton, we caught glimpses of heads and tails, and heard much vocalizing, but few clear visuals, due to dense trees and rock formations.
Well-worn trails are evidence of high equine traffic over a long period of time.

Western Butte Mountains Foothills

Cherry Creek Mountains in the distance

Western Butte Mountains

Eat Our Dust!

Butte Valley viewed from Cherry Creek Canyon

Click Map to view LARGER
The green line is Elko-White Pine County Line

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

(2012.JUN.15) -- Ely BLM Hearing on the use of motorized vehicles and aircraft to gather wild horses

2012.JUN.15 - Ely, NV

There were only five attendants at the meeting (not counting BLM personnel). 

Brad Harmbrook representing NDOW (NV Dept of Wildlife) read from a prepared statement about the need for, and humanity of roundups. He ran out of time before completion of his reading.

Next, Megan Brown from Nevada Cattlemen's Association. Ms. Brown could have simply picked up where Mr. Harmbrook left off, for it seemed as if they were both reading from the same paper. She read without conviction, and ran out of time. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

UPDATE: Cherry Creek Band Of Wild Horses (2011.JUN.13)


I went out to check on the two Cherry Creek Bands that customarily make their homes along the eastern face of the Cherry Creek Mountain Range.

En route, I spotted two stallions skirmishing noisily (at first, I wasn't sure -- they might have been courting) about a quarter mile above the Curry Road, east of the fenceline, on the eastern bench of Cherry Creek Mountains. 

I hoped they would be so engrossed in their frolicking, that I might be able to get close enough for a decent shot. I got out and started walking.

They continued their battle - not a very enthusastic joust, I thought - they were steadily moving south, toward town.

As I approached to within a few hundred yards, they decided I was a greater threat than either of them were, to each other. They split up and began running full tilt in opposite directions. 

I am not 100% posituve, but I think this is our old friend, Blaze.

The northbound guy ran and ran. I hurried back to my vehicle and followed him parallel on the road for about a mile. He ran until he came to a group of about a dozen horses - and kept running ....

I could see that the bypassed horses were west of the fenceline, between the mountain and the fence. The sun was in my eyes, and I thought they might have been inside a smaller enclosure, so I headed up the nearest wash road, to see what I might see. 

The horses above the fence bolted and ran up into the foothills, and thus I was able to ascertain that they were NOT closely confined.

A big black mare among them gives me to think they are the band that usually ranges north of Goshute Creek. I have never seen them this far down, and I suspect they have been chased. They have always been more skittish than the Cherry Creek 8, and they scrambled as soon as I got within shooting distance.   I don't think they can get through the fence, and they will be trapped when the helicopters come.

The Cherry Creek Eight are now NINE, with the arrival of a new foal. As I followed the larger Goshute Creek group, this small band headed north along the bench, and I was not able to get nearer to them.

The high desert is uncharacteristically lush and green,  due to unusual amounts of precipitation, this year. Most notably, mustard grass is thick and thigh high. Water in run-off washes continues to flow above normal.

There are approximately two hundred cattle scattered sparsely along the road between Cherry Creek and the Green Ranch.

UPDATE: 2011.JUN.14

I returned to the area that I had seen the two wild bands, and I watched them from the road for a short time, knowing I would not be able to get closer.  Both bands were moving north at a steady, unhurried pace along the foothills of the Cherry Creek Mountains, approximtely two miles apart.