Virginia Range horses cause public safety concerns

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Virginia Range horses cause public safety concerns

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After a series of serious incidents involving motorists and feral horses in the Virginia Range, including one fatality, the Nevada Department of Agriculture is urging drivers to use caution in neighborhoods near the range.

The Department of Agriculture is responsible for what it estimates as thousands of feral horses on the range, but there are no resources or personnel for the task.

Spokesman Bob Conrad says the department has received many public safety complaints in recent months.

"We did gather 8 estrays last week that were in the Hidden Valley area because of citizen complaints about property damage, horses crossing into roadways, and there were some concerns about horses being in a public park area where some children were there."

The department has a new agreement with an advocacy group called Return to Freedom which allows the group to buy those gathered horses, protecting them from possible slaughter.

This fall, Conrad says the department plans to finalize an agreement with a private nonprofit that will manage the horse population on the range.

"What we're hoping to achieve is that the horse populations are maintained at healthy levels. When we're in drought years, how will this group help maintain the population and keep it healthy, as well as in the good years? We're also hoping for regular census data being collected, also, determining the health of the rangeland and other wildlife in that area."

In the last legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill allowing government agencies to work with non-profits to manage wild horses.

The Virginia Range includes areas east of Carson City, Fernley, Dayton, Lockwood, south Reno, Silver Springs, and Virginia City.