Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Buck and Bald HMA - White Pine Co., Nv

Status Unknown: Anyone?

The Buck and Bald Herd Management Area (HMA) is located approximately 55 miles northnorthwest

of the town of Ely, Nevada, in White Pine County. The Buck and Bald HMA

comprises approximately 627,030 acres (679 square miles), 98 percent of which is public lands.

The area which includes the Buck and Bald HMA is very remote. Access to the HMA is

accomplished via dirt roads and trails mainly with two paved roads entering the HMA on the far

east and far west sides. The only significant human settlements in the area, aside from a couple

of small ranches, are the towns of Ely and Eureka.

The layout of the Buck and Bald HMA consists of four large valleys (Newark, Ruby, Huntington,

and Long) bounded on the sides by large mountain ranges and separated in the middle by the

south half of the Ruby Mountains. The White Pine/Elko County line is the north end. The

mountain ranges include the Butte, South Ruby (Buck and Bald), Maverick Springs, and

Diamond mountains. All mountain ranges have peaks exceeding 8,500 feet. Newark Valley is

wide and long. Its lowest elevation is around 5,900 feet and is marked by a large alkaline playa

or dry lake bed. Long Valley is similar to Newark except it occurs at a slightly higher elevation

and is mostly vegetated with only a small playa.

The Buck and Bald HMA affords a classic Great Basin environment marked by extremes of

almost every kind. Summertime temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and winter

lows can fall to 30 degrees below zero or lower. Precipitation in eastern Nevada occurs mostly in

the winter in the form of snow with sparse summer moisture. Moisture totals of 12 inches or

more are common for the mountains, while less than 8 inches may fall in the valleys.

Buck and Bald Wild Herd Management Area

White Pine County, Nevada

Water is critical to every animal in the Buck and Bald HMA, because it is very limited and

occurs only at very few natural springs and a few man-made wells. There are also a few small

perennial streams in the Buck and Bald HMA.

The Buck and Bald HMA is home to numerous wildlife species including mule deer, pronghorn

antelope, coyotes, jackrabbits, and numerous species of birds and rodents.

Human interest in the Buck and Bald HMA has been historically limited to livestock ranching,

hunting, prospecting, and firewood and pine nut harvesting. In recent years, outdoor tourism has

become increasingly important, and eastern Nevada is evolving into an important area for those

seeking vast unoccupied expanses of public lands.


Vegetation in the Buck and Bald HMA is also characteristic of the Great Basin with dominant

plants having evolved to survive the extremes. Typical vegetation varies according to elevation

with the upper mountain slopes generally covered with brush, with fir and mountain mahogany

covering extensive areas. Through the mid elevations, pinyon and juniper trees are dominant and

often form closed stands which prevent other vegetation from growing. As the elevation and

moisture supply falls, the vegetation shifts toward a shrub dominated community. Sagebrush is

the most common shrub along the pinyon-juniper perimeter. Sagebrush gives way to white sage,

black sage, saltbush and other “salt desert shrub” type plants. Salt desert shrub plants have

evolved to deal with the high saline soils which developed after thousands of years of internal

drainage of runoff waters.

Herd Description

The Buck and Bald wild horse herd is managed by the Ely Field Office for an appropriate

management level of 400 wild horses. This number was developed based on evaluation of the

horses’ habitat which indicated that between 340 and 460 wild horses could be sustained in the

area without interrupting the delicate balance of the ecosystem. In order to keep wild horse

numbers in balance with their environment, the BLM periodically gathers some of these wild

horses and places them into the National Wild Horse and Burro Adoption program. Between

1985 and 1999, a total of 2,292 wild horses were removed from the Buck and Bald HMA and a

total of 3,020 wild horses were captured.

Wild horses in the area can be found throughout the HMA at different times of the year.

Typically, horses will remain at the upper elevations during the summer as long as the forage and

water last. As these resources are depleted, or when snow drives them down (as early as

September in some years), they move off the mountain and into the valleys. Here they exist on

the sparse grasses such as Sandberg bluegrass, needle-and-thread grass, and Indian ricegrass. In

addition to grasses, horses in the region have adapted to a diet of dominant shrubs such as white

sage and saltbush.

The history of the Buck and Bald wild horse herd is somewhat clouded. Few people visited the

area before recent times. The Pony Express trekked through the area, and is likely to have been a

major source of horses during its decline. Ranches also no doubt contributed to the wild horse

population during the late 1800s and early to mid-1900s. There may also have been transient

horse management for the Army Remount Program which was active into the 1930s. Native

Americans in Nevada did not use the horse, and Spanish explorers never found their way into the


Due to the probable ancestry of Buck and Bald wild horses, and the rigors of survival in this

harsh environment, Buck and Bald wild horses can be very dependable, sturdy riding and packing

horses. Average heights vary depending on whether horses were born during drought years or

not, but tend to be around 14 to 15 hands. Colors are also variable, but are dominated by the

darker black, bay, chestnut, and sorrel colors. Variations on these basic colors are also common,

including paint, pinto, palomino, and roan with white markings occurring on most animals. The

Buck and Bald wild horse herd also contains a Curly horse ancestry. Though the origin of this

trait is not known, the pleasing and unique results are found in wild horses only from this

geographic area. Foals in eastern Nevada are born in the spring, mostly during the months of

April or May. Births are timed to coincide with spring green-up which would afford the most

nutritious forage to nursing mares and foals.

Wild horses are very social creatures and are formed into what is known as a “matriarchal

society.” A matriarchal society is one which is led by a dominant female. This dominant mare is

responsible for daily activities of the band. Contrary to popular belief, the stud serves the band in

a secondary role only. He does influence the structure of the band and is responsible for

gathering up the component mares and maintaining and protecting the group, but has little to do

with daily activities. Bands can range in size from two to more than twenty animals. Wild horse

bands generally consist of one dominant stud, and one to several unrelated mares. Offspring

either wander off or are forcibly ejected from the group before becoming reproductively mature

to limit inbreeding. Young mares which leave their parental band are quickly gathered up into

surrounding bands, while young studs join together into bachelor groups. Young studs will

remain in bachelor herds for several years until they are mature enough to take their own mare


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