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BLM News Release: Wild/Feral Horse Population Data Collected

Posted by Texas Mustang Project on July 9, 2010


Release Date: 07/09/10
Contacts: JoLynn Worley, 775-861-6515, jolynn_worley@blm.gov
News Release No. 2010-022

Wild/Feral Horse Population Data Collected

Reno, Nev. — Preliminary data from an aerial population survey conducted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) of northwest Nevada and southern Oregon indicates there is a minimum of 4,200 wild/feral horses within this area, which contains 13 wild horse herd management areas (HMAs), including the five Calico Mountains Complex HMAs, 3 wild horse herd areas (HAs), and two national wildlife refuges.

The BLM and FWS concluded the inventory on June 28 after nine days and approximately 60 hours of flight time using a fixed-wing airplane, which will provide a scientifically-based estimate of the wild/feral horse population. The project area encompasses approximately four million acres of private and Federally-managed public lands.

This improved population survey methodology was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) with the assistance of BLM wild horse specialists. The methodology, called Simultaneous Double-Count with Sightability Bias Correction, used three observers to independently observe and record data on groups of individual horses. The methodology incorporates peer-reviewed techniques that have been used for decades to estimate wildlife populations around the world.

A statistician cooperating with USGS will analyze the preliminary data obtained during the inventory flights to provide population estimates with a 95 percent confidence interval. Inventory information relies on the ability of the aerial observers to see horse groups and is strongly dependent on the skill of the individual observer, size of the horse group, and vegetation cover.

The modeling and analysis to be completed will make adjustments to the preliminary data to account for animals not observed during the flight. The simultaneous double-count/sightability bias correction technique will provide more valid population estimates than the standard uncorrected aerial inventory method.

While the BLM does not have a date for the release of the final results of the inventory and necessary modeling work, preliminary data, which represent the minimum number of horses in each area, are shown below. The BLM/FWS will release the results of the analysis to the public when it comes available. The following numbers shown are direct counts of animals seen during the flight and include observed foals of the year.

Bureau of Land Management administered areas:

State/Herd Management Area (HMA) or Herd Area (HA) Direct Count
Nevada Calico Complex 5 HMAs
   Black Rock East HMA
   Black Rock West HMA
   Calico Mountain HMA
   Warm Springs Canyon HMA
   Granite Mountain HMA
NV/non-HMA areas
                                                     NV sub-total
69
140
436
342
154
136
1,277
   
OR/Beaty’s Butte HMA
OR/Pueblo-Lone Mountain HA
OR/South Catlow HA
OR/non-HMA areas
                                                     OR sub-total
377
19
0
4_
400
   
CA/Bitner HMA
CA/Carter Reservoir HMA
CA/Fox Hog HMA 
CA/High Rock Canyon HMA
CA/Massacre Lakes HMA
CA/Nut Mountain HMA
CA/Wall Canyon HMA
CA/New Years Lake HA
CA/non-HMA areas
                                                     CA sub-total
47
6
172
300
148
3
87
100
430
1,293
   
US Fish and Wildlife Service administered area:
USFWS/Sheldon-Hart Mountain
1,247
   
                                                  Inventory total 4,217

This cooperative effort will establish a base line population count and animal distribution in this large area. Past population surveys and gather operations have shown that wild/feral horses may move among a number of HMAs and the Sheldon and Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuges.

This population survey represents a point in time and that because of the free-roaming nature of the animals their movement between HMAs is normal and expected. While the total number of animals is expected to remain stable until next year’s foaling season, the numbers within each HMA will vary over time.

Pre-determined transects spaced 1 ½ miles apart were flown at an altitude of approximately 500 feet above ground level and speeds ranging between 95 and 110 nautical mph. Data collected included the number of horses per group, type of topography, plant cover, activity of the horses, and other parameters that will be used to develop population estimates. All observed horse groups also had their locations recorded via GPS.

BLM and FWS are planning to return to the area later this fall for a second survey that will provide information on the herd movement and how that can affect population counts in the individual areas.

Map of survey area and locations where horses were observed.

The BLM manages more land – more than 245 million acres – than any other Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The Bureau, with a budget of about $1 billion, also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources on public lands.

–BLM–

Nevada State Office   1340 Financial Blvd., Reno NV 89502

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6 Responses to “BLM News Release: Wild/Feral Horse Population Data Collected”

  1. Jan said

    does this mean they will change how many horses they round up or less

  2. betty said

    How many days did the fly over take? If it took more than one day some of those horses were likely double counted. I also wonder how they can have two single sightings on top of a yellow dot band? But at least they are trying!!

  3. betty said

    I see it took nine days so many of them probably are double counted as horses don’t stand still for nine days. I also find it interesting that they counted 1200 horses in the Calico comlex area where no other person (craig downer and others) have seen over 60? Interesting to say the least.

  4. betty said

    I also thought it was interesting that they say there are 1200 horses in the California HMA’s but the map places most of those HMA”S in Nevada and only a tiny fraction of the surveryed area in California. Am I missing some thing here?

  5. Linda H said

    Until there is an objective 3rd party population count (double count done in 2 or less days), the credibility of the BLM has not changed in verifying their roundup numbers.

  6. Lisa LeBlanc said

    There is 3rd party population count, if only for the Calico complex.
    Craig Downer did a (if I recall correctly) six-hour flyover of the Calico area. He sighted and counted 47 Wild Equines, and 300 cattle, including GPS coordinates of the areas where the animals were sighted.
    Perhaps these other Horses, counted by the Forest Service & the BLM, were less shy about flyovers.
    Because these two agencies would NEVER submit false data, would they?

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