Virginia Range Horse FAQs


Frequently Asked Questions

Virginia Range Horses FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions


Are the Virginia Range horses wild mustangs?

            Most wild horses in Nevada fall under the jurisdiction of federal, U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). However, the BLM declared the Virginia Range a “wild horse free area” through a land planning process in 1986.

            As a result of this declaration, the Virginia Range horses have been designated as estray/feral livestock because they are not within a BLM herd management area. Horses that have migrated over time or have been “let go” onto the Virginia range fall under Nevada state laws pertaining to estray/feral livestock.


Why are there so many Virginia Range estray horses?

            Horse populations in the wild can quickly grow, doubling in size every few years. Based on the last official census (June 2014), there are more than 1,950 estray/feral horses on and around the Virginia Range. The range was determined by a Range Inventory report by NDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Virginia Wildlife Protection Association in 2001 to support a population of 300-600 horses.


Are there viable birth control methods that can be used to control expanding horse populations?

            At this time, no viable treatment has been identified that will effectively decrease free-roaming horse herd birth rates in a cost-effective manner. Research continues for a cost-efficient method of birth control for free-roaming horses.


Is it legal to feed the horses?

            No. It is a violation of Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) 569.040 to feed estray/feral horses. Despite the public’s best intentions, feeding the horses only draws them out of the range and brings them into conflict with urban areas. Additionally, like any other non-domesticated animal living in the wild, if there is not sufficient forage, feral livestock is expected to migrate to survive.

            The Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA) investigates feeding complaints, enforces the no-feeding statute with warning citations, and issues fines of up to $2,000 and charges of a gross misdemeanor if feeding continues after warning citations have been issued.


Can I supply them water?

            Watering horses is legal under Nevada Revised Statutes; however, NDA recommends NOT watering horses in or near urban areas out of concern for public safety.


What exactly does “fence out” mean in Nevada?

            Simply put, if landowners do not want livestock on their property, they must construct a “legal fence” in accordance with NRS 569.431.


When does the NDA trap and remove Virginia Range estray horses?

            NDA traps and removes horses when they are a public safety concern. Public safety concerns include livestock that are in residential areas and horses in close proximity to roadways. Since 2011, the only horses that have been trapped and transferred to the Northern Nevada Correctional Center are those considered threats to both public safety and to the horses themselves.


Why are the horses sometimes considered public safety hazards?

            Four major highways border the range as well as a number of residential areas. In autumn and winter, as the forage and water diminish, estray horses come down off the range and move into urban areas searching for food and water. Horses near roadways and residential areas can cause car and pedestrian accidents. In recent years, NDA has documented incidences where horses have kicked two girls, where horses have died from vehicle collisions, and two separate incidences when there were two human fatalities as a result of horse/vehicle collisions.  Watch this video from KOLOTV.



What happens to horses that are hit in accidents?

            NDA humanely euthanizes injured horses. Carcasses are removed from areas of concern for public safety reasons, with cooperating agencies depending on location, and when resources and equipment are available.


Are citizen tax dollars used to collect and remove Virginia Range estray horses?

            No general fund money currently is allocated for the management of feral or estray livestock. It is fees paid by Nevada livestock producers that are supporting NDA’s activities associated with the Virginia Range horses.


Is there a management program for the horses?

            The Virginia Range feral/estray horse population can benefit from a proactive management program. Currently, NDA is managing feral livestock to the best of its ability within existing legal and fiscal authorities. NDA’s efforts are focused on protecting public safety, such as removing horses in areas where public safety is of concern.


What happens to the Virginia Range estray horses collected by NDA?

            NDA currently has a signed agreement with Return To Freedom (RTF), a non-profit group that has the option to adopt the horses. If RTF cannot place the horses, the horses may be sold per NRS 569.080 at a public livestock auction. Any member of the public may purchase the livestock.


I’ve heard that Virginia Range estray horses go to slaughter?

            Since March of 2013 NDA has had an agreement with Return To Freedom (RTF), a non-profit horse advocacy group, for RTF to adopt out the horses to interested parties.

            It is possible that the horses could end up for sale at public auction – at which NDA has no authority to determine buying outcomes.


What is the status of the cooperative agreement for the management of the horses?

            NDA issued a Request for Information in 2013 for an entity to help manage the Virginia Range horses, and one group submitted a response. The agreement is being negotiated as of July 2014.


Who can I contact about the horses?

            NDA maintains a horse hotline (775-353-3608) and an email contact:

            Concerns are forwarded to our Agricultural Enforcement Officer for investigation.


    What Can I Do?

    1. Report illegal feeding. Call 775-353-3608 with specific details – date, time, address or location, license plate numbers, and any identifying information. 
    2. Fence out private property. Because horses are attracted to green landscapes, sturdy fencing around such areas can be helpful to keep horses away from urban areas. 
    3. Keep a safe distance from horses. Horses can be unpredictable and can cause serious bodily injuries. 
    4. Drive with extra caution in areas where horses may be located.