Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association
P.O. Box 536
Virginia City, NV 89440
(775) 881-2288

Trying to Understand – Northern Nevada’s Wild Equine Struggles

By Dawn Cranfield

Northern Nevada is/has been facing an environmental, moral and ethical crisis for decades as communities struggle with what to do with the growing population of horses and burros.  This is the second in a series of articles highlighting the struggle between man and nature.

For over a century, the wild horse has been an iconic symbol of the Wild West; they symbolize the freedom and spirit of the Americans who survived and settled in some of the most inhospitable territory in the land.  However, these majestic animals have come under attack in the last few decades by the government, the community at large, and even by the ranchers they once supported.

Wild horses (mustangs, feral or estray horses) and burros that once roamed freely in the Virginia Range of Northern Nevada are at the heart of a much-heated public debate as to their future.  The controversy between the government (Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Department of Agriculture), the residents, and tourists has been quite spirited at times as each group focuses on different aspects of the issue.

Even within each broader group, there are smaller factions with differing viewpoints as to whether or not the animals are an annoyance or a benefit to the area.  While some residents believe the equine should be allowed to roam the range freely, others believe they are a public and safety nuisance and support the BLM round-ups.

There are many advocacy and charitable organizations working in the Virginia City, Highlands, and outlying areas to save these animals.  Some groups focus on all animals; some have an emphasis on either horses or burros, but all have a heart for saving them from the kill-buyers.

Kill-buyers purchase the animals from the Nevada Department of Agriculture auctions and take them to slaughterhouses in Mexico where they are massacred for use in dog food and consumption in Canada.  The process is brutal and inhumane at best, savage at worst.

While the groups trying to save the animals all want to save them from the kill-buyers, they do not necessarily all agree on the best outcome for the community or the environment.  Some believe adoption programs where horses and burros are rescued and adopted to the public would be best, while others feel letting the animals live their lives naturally on the open range would be the better option.

One group, the Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association (VRWPA), wants to take a different approach when dealing with this overwhelming issue.  Their plan is to form a coalition with the other advocacy groups and organizations in the area so they can tackle the topic with one cohesive voice.

Bob Maccario, President VRWPA, and Rene Klein, Vice President VRWPA, are businessmen who are taking a business approach in moving forward on this matter.  They have changed the direction of the non-profit organization; after a thirty-year history in the Virginia City Highlands, the group is now open to membership all over the United States.

Additionally, they have collaborated with University Nevada Reno (UNR) to study the problem at hand, to determine what should be done with the animals.  Their five-point plan includes:  1) Establishing a sustainable wild horse herd capacity for the Virginia Range; 2) Updating an accurate count of current herd size on the range; 3) If necessary, creating a herd reduction program reintroducing excess horses to available, natural habitats; 4) Utilizing proven science, initiating a birth control program for the wild horses to maintain a healthy vibrant herd; and 5) Creating an educated volunteer program to oversee the well-being of the entire Virginia Range for the animal population and the habitat.
For now, they are meeting monthly with all of the groups in the area, trying to determine common goals and create a unified front when meeting with governmental agencies.  When working with the government, it is easier to be heard when a community comes together with a solid plan and fewer contacts.

The range problems were not created in a day, nor can they be resolved overnight.  This group seeks to work collaboratively in determining the best method for a peaceful resolution for the residents and the environment, and to preserve the stature of these icons of the West.

If you would like more information on this unique group, please contact them at:
Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association
P.O. Box 536
Virginia City, NV 89440
Phone: 775-881-2288

To view the first article in the series please follow this link:

When Disasters Occur & Your Insurance Policy

Thursday, 5/17/20012 6 PM at Station 2How will your insurance policy respond in your time of need? When a disaster
occurs, will your insurance company treat you “like a good neighbor” or
“like a liability”?Rajat Jain of the NV Division of Insurance will be conducting a presentation
aimed to provide an overview of a typical homeowners’ insurance policy,
types of coverages, limitations, conditions, exclusions, and the role of the
policy language in the loss settlement process.Thursday, 5/17/2012 at 6 PM at Station Two

Sponsored by your Fire Safe Highlands

For more information, please call Gwynn Buck at 847-7762

Be Aware

Black Bears
Be “Bear Aware”. There have been many recent incidents in the Virginia City Highlands of people having encounters with black bears. The Nevada Department of Wildlife has information on how to prevent bear encounters and what to do if you do encounter a bear.
  Click here for more information.

Mountain Lion
There have also been mountain lion sightings in the Virginia Highlands. 
Click here for more information on protecting yourself from mountain lions.

For information on bobcats and all sorts of Nevada wildlife click on this link to the Nevada Department of Wildlife

Junipers and Parasitic Mistletoe
Many people are not aware that mistletoe is a parasitic plant that can damage juniper trees.Click on this link to see photos of parasitic mistletoe on juniper trees in the Virginia City Highlands.

License Plates

Wild Horse License Plates  Available Soon!

You can soon purchase a wild horse license plate from the Department of Motor Vehicles and even have it personalized.


Biology of Porcine Zona Pellucida Immunocontraception

What is PZP and How Does It Work?:  A non-cellular membrane known as the zona pellucida (ZP) surrounds all mammalian eggs.  The ZP consists of several glycoproteins (proteins with some carbohydrate attached), one of which, ZP3 is thought to be the sperm receptor (the molecule which permits attachent of the sperm to the egg during the process of fertiliaztion).  The PZP vaccine is derived from the ZP protein from pig eggs.  When this vaccine is injected into the muscle of the target female animal, it stimulates her immune system to produce antibodies against the vaccine.  These antibodies also attach to the sperm receptors on the ZP of the female's own eggs and distorts their shape, thereby blocking fertilization. (see Paterson and Aitkin 1990).  

Thus far PZP has been a successful form of contraception in wildlife because (1) it has prevented preganancy an average of 90% or greater of the time in treated animals, (2) it can be delivered remotely by small darts, (3) the cantraceptive effects are reversible, (4) it is effective across many species, (5) there are no debilitating health side-effects even after long-term use, (6) it has almost no effects on social behaviors, (7) the vaccine cannot pass through the food chain and (8) it is safe to give to pregnant animals (see Kirkpatrick et al. 2009).

Assateague Island National Seashore has clearly been the single most successful wild horse fertility control project ever conducted.  It has been ongoing for over 28 years.

For more information on PZP, visit The Science and Conservation Center

Call Us (775) 881-2288

P.O. Box 536
Virginia City, NV 89440