SURPRISE VALLEY, Calif. — The water was gone, dried up in summer’s heat, yet the wild horses stayed at Summit Springs in the Fox Hog Herd Management Area.
Bureau of Land Management officials at the Surprise Field Office overseeing the herd were paying close attention to the Summit Springs location and the drought there, said Jeff Fontana, public affairs officer for the BLM’s northern California district.
“We monitor the condition of water resources for all uses, but particularly for wild horses and wild burros,” Fontana said.
The area had an abnormally dry winter, and stock ponds and springs dried up earlier than normal, a BLM press release said.
“Those horses had been congregating around a water source that was drying up,” Fontana said. “They didn’t move on.”
Fontana said this isn’t terribly unusual for horses. He said he has seen horses take turns drinking out of a softball-sized indentation in the ground.
“They expect water to be there,” Fontana said.
At Summit Springs, BLM officials started hauling in water with trucks and putting it into a trough for the horses.
Next they put up panels and let the horses get used to them, before closing the panels to trap them.
“They’re pretty savvy, very cautious,” Fontana said. “It takes some time.”
The horses at Summit Springs are part of the herd managed by the BLM and federally designated under the 1971 Wild, Free-roaming Horse and Burro Act, Fontana said. The last time BLM had to step in was November 2011, when it rounded up more than 1,000 horses, trying to reduce a population that was four times greater than the appropriate size limit at the time, according to the High Rock Complex Wild Horse Roundup web page.