Citizen concern for wild mustangs


Mustangs in River Springs range. (Photo by Sierrawave reader)

As  federal agencies planned to set up a meeting regarding the Montgomery Pass wild mustang herd in the new year, informed sources claimed to Sierra Wave that the local Department of Fish and Game might consider elimination, by paid hunters, of 30 to 40 wild mustangs in the area.

Bruce Kinney, who heads up the Fish and Game office in Bishop, refused to return our phone call on this matter.  We contacted Andrew Hughan, of Fish and Game Communications in Sacramento.  He said that he spoke with a Fish and Game supervisor who confirmed that former Fish and Game warden Pat Woods was working currently as a consultant for the department, possibly on a special project. Sources said Woods was hired to assess the wild mustangs. Hughan said those he contacted did not confirm any plan regarding the wild horse herds.

The Bureau of Land Management and Inyo National Forest also deal with wild mustang management to some degree.  Head of BLM here, Bernadette Lovato, said that her agency has very little involvement with wild horse activity.  She did say there is a small overlap of the River Springs herd near Montgomery Pass.  She did not know anything about an elimination plan.

Nancy Upham of the Forest Service said that all she knew about this issue was that there has been talk about setting up a meeting between the “interested and involved parties regarding the Montgomery Pass herd.”  Upham said those she spoke to in the Forest Service had no knowledge of any discussion about shooting any of the horses.  She did say that Forest Service and BlM employees will probably meet regarding the wild horse herd early in the new year.

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52 Responses to Citizen concern for wild mustangs

  1. Amazed in Bishop January 4, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    I am surprised that at 55 mph and going up the pass no less, that you were unable to see this animal running towards you. Perhaps you did not have “sweeping eyes?” I will never forget all those years ago, my driver’s training teacher taught us to always “sweep the road with your eyes” This helps to see things beyond the side of the road. Once again Eamon, so sorry for your accident. It sounds like a real “one in a million” accident. Don’t blame the horse as he too was on the losing end in a very big way.

  2. Big Rick O'Brien January 3, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    Does anyone know what those big, yellow,reflective signs are for that are posted on BOTH sides of Montgomery Pass, that have a picture of a big horse on them ?

    • Terry January 4, 2012 at 8:51 am #

      I thought those were targets!

    • Eamon January 4, 2012 at 9:04 am #

      Actually there are no signs on Highway 6 that are “big, yellow, reflective with a picture of a big horse on them”; those are cattle.

      • Rob January 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

        Eamon not much difference when you hit them at 65mph

      • Wayne Deja January 4, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

        Don’t really matter what picture is on the sign…at least for me it don’t….If I see a warning sign with an animal pictured in the middle of the sign,it’s gonna not only slow me down,but also make me very aware of what might be on the road ahead.

      • Big Rick O'Brien January 4, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

        WRONG… I drove through through there Dec. 30th and AGAIN, on the 2nd, and they are both in place, going up the pass on each side, AND they are HORSES.

  3. Amazed in Bishop January 3, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    Eamon, It would be rare that the horse would be attracted to your headlights. Trust me when I say that these horses would rather run away, than run towards. I am sorry that it happened to you but truly, maybe you would consider driving a bit slower when you are in the areas that they are in. They are truly magnificent animals. The fact is that horses have partnered with mankind for hundreds of years. If it had not been for the domestication of the horse, how would the west have been won? We have asked for so much from them and how little they ask of us in return. I believe that the free running horse herds are fundamental symbols of the american culture and that they belong in the Eastern Sierra.

    • Eamon January 4, 2012 at 8:59 am #

      Well considering I was on the uphill climb of the Pass in my beater car the fastest I could go was 55 mph when the speed limit is 65, I was 10 mph slower than the speed limit.

  4. Amazed in Bishop January 2, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    Dear Eamon,

    I was sorry to hear about your accident. It must have been a very tough time for you not to mention the horse. Horses move differently than deer do. They do not just blindly leap on to the road. Unless it is a blind corner, you can see them. The problem occurs when drivers on the open road, many times driving above the speed limit do not slow down when they see animals in the area. I just don’t get it- how hard is it to slow down when any type of animal is near the road? Yet people don’t do that. Instead, they live by the rule that “it will get out of the way.” The prudent thing to do is to respect our wildlife and instead of cursing them and not yielding to them, slow down and enjoy looking at them. Not everybody gets to see such beauty as we do in the Eastern Sierra.

    • Eamon January 3, 2012 at 9:11 am #

      Well, until you collide with a large animal you’ll understand how in most cases it’s unavoidable. That particular BROWN horse wasn’t standing in the road stopped, it was full speed running towards the highway and in the sunset hours (in the summer) by the time I saw it, it was impossible to stop- the horse literally ran into MY vehicle as evidenced by the damage inflicted to the car….I believe that animal was attracted to my headlights.

  5. Eamon December 30, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    That’s great news; after hitting one of those horses on Montgomery Pass on the NV side in my car a few years ago and having it’s head punch through my wind shield, its 1000 lbs body completely crush in the engine compartment of my car, almost killing me, and putting me in the hospital for a week, something needs to be done about it……everyone here wants to write up friendly, wild horse loving stories until you have one of them almost kill you. Get rid of them.

    • Wayne Deja December 30, 2011 at 7:05 pm #

      Eamon….Don’t want to sound insensitive here,but a lot of the people living up here in this area see the wildlife as an attraction to the area….the deer,the elk,cattle, sometimes even a bear and vehicle cross paths….With your post,do you feel we should have an all out hunt to rid the Eastern Sierras’ of the wildlife that might get onto the highways and cause an accident?

      • Eamon January 3, 2012 at 9:03 am #

        Of course not; however, Mr. Deja vehicle collisions with animals is one of the largest contributors to accidents in the Inyo/Mono counties and I’m not the only one who has collided with one of those horses in the Montgomery Pass area. Since the BLM and DFG are responsible for the “management” of them they need to do something to reduce that possiblity. And lets not forget that other than skiing at Mammoth, climbing the local terrain, the major tourist draw to the area IS the wildlife- hunting.

        • Wayne Deja January 3, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

          Eamon….Apples and oranges…..With your statement about “management” of these horses,does that also mean DFG is responsible if a vehicle happens to hit a deer?Gosh,wouldn’t that open a slippery slope to a lot of law-suits.You mention that vehicle/animal collisions are one of the largest contributors to vehicle accidents up here.I have worked accident clean-up for a tow company,and have seen vehicle/deer,vehicle/elk,big rig/cattle,and seen vehicles damaged twice running into a bear on HWY 395…but no vehicle /wild horses yet….Also,you mention wildlife hunting in the Eastern Sierras…thinning the herd….but seeing it as a “tourist attraction”,or keeping the herds from taking over the highways is hardly the reason for our hunting seasons up here.

      • Grrrr! January 3, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

        Yeah, Wayne – Eamon wants his creature comforts minus the creatures.

    • enoughalready January 2, 2012 at 9:29 am #

      Hey Eamon – you ought to be more careful when driving thru wild horse country. One of these really big horses might end up thru your windshield……O’ sorry……..hard lesson to learn.

    • Ken Warner January 3, 2012 at 10:25 am #

      A deer can do the same thing. Should we kill all the remaining deer?

  6. Amazed in Bishop December 29, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Benett, It would be interesting to reach out to a PHD out of Ohio as he may be able to provide good information. He developed a humane contraception that has been used on feral horse herds as well as other wildlife. He is no stranger to our area or the horse herds in the whites. If you would like contact information, please email me.

    Some of his research has included:

    “Effects of chronically deteriorating habitats on stress levels of wildlife and fishes (HSUS, private and zoo funding, 1991-present). The impetus for the wildlife studies has been the need to alleviate suffering faced by numerous species which are overpopulating fixed-size habitats. The stress studies have been motivated by need to assess the impact of increasingly compromised environments on the homeostasis of their inhabitants and to develop physiological early-warning indicators to red-flag such environments. A hallmark of his environmental endeavors has been the development of humane, non-invasive (remote) methods for both contraception and physiological monitoring of free-roaming wildlife. Since 1999 his research studies have primarily focused on a single-injection, multi-year controlled-release wildlife contraceptive vaccine.

  7. Pat Woods December 28, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

    In the interest of posting the truth in this matter… {“more information”]

    Whoever your “informed source” is, they are misinformed, or just not telling the truth.

    I am not a consultant, I am a retired annuitant working part time for the Sacramento DFG office performing purely administrative duties. I am not involved in any wildlife or feral animal management issues.

    Bennett, your investigation was obviously incomplete…you never asked ME about this issue before you posted inaccuracies reporting me as a “consultant” “hired to assess the wild mustangs.” Your story leads your readers to believe that I am involved in some non-existent DFG “special project.” [see Horseman post]

    It would be appropriate that you get the facts straight BEFORE you post a story on your website.

    I would appreciate a correction to your article, as not everyone will spend the time to read down these comments.

    BTW… Horses and burros on public lands are managed exclusively by the Federal government [BLM, USFS] and not the state DFG. As you said in you article, both of those agencies have told you that they will be having meetings regarding horse management in early 2012, maybe that is where you should look for information.

    • Benett Kessler December 30, 2011 at 5:49 pm #


      Thank you for writing. We appreciate information. The problem in this situation is the consistent refusal by DFG’s Bruce Kinney to respond to
      questions. No one knew how to get in touch with you. We did not say you were working on horse management. We quoted the Sacramento DFG
      Public Information man who tried to help us when Kinney refused. He was told you were continuing to work after retirement on a special project.

      The story here is DFG’s refusal to inform the public on public matters – the management of animals in our area. Disturbing information has come
      to our agency on other wild animal issues, implying cruel handling. We can not check out these reports since local DFG refuses to talk. Also,
      USFS and BLM did not say they have exclusive management of the horses. In fact, BLM spoke of an overlap of responsibility with DFG. And, yes,
      hopefully the meeting coming up will clarify matters.

      Perhaps DFG hopes if they don’t talk to me, there will be no stories. We will not play that game. Turns out in this case that when we did run a story, we heard from you. Thanks, Pat.

      Benett Kessler

  8. Roy December 28, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    Could someone please enlighten me as to where these horses are in Inyo/Mono County,, I have spent over 50 years fishing and visiting the Eastern Sierras and would love the chance to see horses in the wild.

    • Horseman December 28, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

      They are at River Springs off of HWY 120. It is on a topo map. If you drive through the old ranch you will see the old Pizona stage stop several miles away. It is a good, straight, dirt road from HWY 120 to River Springs that you can take a sedan on. After that you need a 4X4. If you want a really fun 4X4 trip, you can come out of the mountains at Truman Meadows on HWY 6 near the old Janies Ranch (Brothel) site. Better get there before it snows!

    • Wayne Deja December 28, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

      Roy…There is a small group of them south of Whitney Portal Road,just as you are turning on Horseshoe Meadow Rd.,in that area…outside of Lone Pine…very small group,maybe 5 to 10.Hope this doesn’t alert the Federal agencies into wanting to eliminate them too!!!….Leave em’ alone….

      • Rob December 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

        I have seen 10 or 12 just South of Little Lake on the East side of 395 too.

    • Big Rick O'Brien December 28, 2011 at 4:41 pm #

      Roy, the area that I have had the best luck seeing these guys is right at the bottom of the grade when you come down from the old Soper’s Casino going toward Hawthorne. 90% of the time you can see a small herd grazing on both sides of the highway. Pronghorns, too.

  9. Rob December 28, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    I’d rather see the horses managed by a private party then have them managed by the taxeaters. Nobody has ever got their monies worth from the taxeaters managing anything.

    with pending budget cuts now would be a good time to send some taxeaters to the unemployment line, before they can make up an excuse to continue their existence.

    • Horseman December 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

      Rob, the mountain lions out there are doing a fine job of managing the herd. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I have observed this herd since 1992 (Including from a helicopter) and the population has stayed low due to natural methods. Mother Nature needs no help from us here.

      • Rob December 28, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

        Perfect! I love when the best thing to do is nothing. I would imagine the mountain lions are eating pretty good.

        So we’re back to budget cuts and lay offs. I’m all for smaller government.

  10. Catch22 December 28, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    “Feral” horses are like feral pigs if left unmanaged. They are non-native species just as cattle are and should be managed to avoid too much competition with the native deer, elk, big horn sheep etc. This management includes thinning out herds and checking for disease that can be transmitted to native wildlife (and livestock). Anyone who spends time in the desert regions watching these animals can see the impacts they have. Cattle and OHV use certainly contributes to the problems but at least land managers are trying to oversee that. Although they are beautiful and symbolize the west, let’s be reasonable and not let PETA override what’s best for the land and native animals.

    • Horseman December 28, 2011 at 11:42 am #

      These horses have roamed this area for over 100 years. Now all of a sudden there is a problem? Catch22 is another DFG Troll who is trying to do damage control because Benett has busted them on something they were going to do behind the public’s back. The fact that honest DFG employees talk to Benett confidentially just proves that Benett is a real investigative reporter who has earned the trust of the community. Remember Deep Throat and Watergate? This is how professional reporters get information.

      The DFG is going to get their budget cut big time by the state so they now have to invent a new “crisis” by fabricating data to somehow justify the fact that there is a wild horse problem in the Pizona area that has not been a problem for over a century. They are hiring one of their own guys to do the study to get the result they want. I bet an independent scientific study by a university would come up with a very different conclusion.

      Where is “UpThe Creek” when we need him.

      The only answer DFG has to these types of issues is to kill the animals. Their wildlife policies are stuck in the 1890’s. Remember that this is the same Bruce Kinney who advocated killing all the bears in Mammoth Lakes to solve Mammoth’s “Bear Problem”. Mammoth is managing their bears very well without any involvement or “expert” advice from Bruce Kinney and DFG.

      Leave the horses alone and let the public enjoy them. DFG needs to remember who they work for.

    • Ken Warner December 28, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

      Sounds like you are talking about white men…..

      • Horseman December 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

        Great point Ken. We Europeans are the biggest non-native species having an impact on the environment.

        • Rob December 28, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

          Europeans are the biggest non-native species; as with the horses, population control would solve many problems.

          instead society continues its downward spiral

      • skier January 2, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

        Funny statement, what color are you? Are you speaking for the tribes around here? What tribe are you a member of?

      • sierragrl January 4, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

        why stop at white men? the asians that came over and populated the americas were non-natives too…certainly blacks are non-natives too. using your logic, all humans are non-natives to the americas…while maybe that’s true, it’s a pretty useless statement.

        • Ken Warner January 5, 2012 at 9:45 am #

          …no that’s not my logic — that’s your logic. Read some history.

          • skier January 5, 2012 at 11:00 am #

            How about some current history, although I’m sure I’ll be labeled racist. Asian immigrants are responsible for stripping the Pacific coast of any sea creatures that they consider edible, regardless of legal bag and size limits, and legal fishing or gathering grounds. This includes fish (halibut, etc.) shellfish (abalone, etc.). Some of these people were arrested when caught pouring bleach in the tidepools at Corona Del Mar, where even picking up empty shells is strictly prohibited.
            Lets not stop there, how about our hispanic brothers netting trout in the Kern River? Seen it with my own eyes.

    • Horseman December 28, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

      Catch22, since you compare “Feral” pigs to “Feral” horses, would the horses be eliminated in the same way the pigs are eliminated?

      Video link:

      • Catch22 January 3, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

        Horseman- The elimination method would be up to land managers and would likely not involve being shot from aircraft like coyotes or pigs have been. It is amusing how quickly people jump on the hysteria bandwagon and stretch the imagination in a way that you’re attempting to do. In reference to your name calling, I’m not a DFG “troll”, but just a employee of a private corporation in Bishop with just a few decades of traveling the back roads of this great country.

  11. Horseman December 27, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

    Yeah right. Forty horses are destroying the environment roaming thousands of acres. Gronk is a DFG Troll.

    • Ken Warner December 28, 2011 at 3:53 am #

      Yes, 40 horses doing what a grazing animal does is destroying our environment. But somehow cattle and off road vehicles of all sorts only enhance our environment.

      Curiouser and curiouser…..

  12. Gronk December 27, 2011 at 8:19 pm #

    It does not sound like these agencies have anything planned at the moment. I doubt very seriously that they would ever be able to shoot these horses. Public opinion against such a thing would be over-whelming. It would never happen. However, the relocation of the horses is a very distinct possibility. These horses are not native and compete with all of our wild animals for food and forage. The horses destroy the water holes and create massive trails that cause erosion. They should be moved and eliminated.

    • longtimesierralocal December 27, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

      Show me a massive trail that they leave, 40 Horses ????

    • Big Rick O'Brien December 27, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

      Erosion of WHAT…desert sand and sagebrush ?

    • Rob December 28, 2011 at 10:18 am #

      Look up Gronk in the urban dictionary

  13. Justin Davis December 27, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    I hope this issue will be opened up to public input before any decisions are made by the agencies involved. The wild mustangs symbolize our beautiful open range lands and their loss would be a sad commentary on just how skewed and degraded our public values have become.

    • Horseman December 27, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

      Justin, the DFG would have gone out and shot the horses from a helicopter and no one would have known about it if Benett had not broke this story.

      • Inyoite December 27, 2011 at 10:40 pm #

        “…informed sources claimed to Sierra Wave that the local Department of Fish and Game might consider elimination…”

        “informed sources” – unnamed.
        “claimed” – not proven.
        “might” – or…might not.

        What story was broken here, exactly? This isn’t reporting, this is publishing rumors.

        • Benett Kessler December 28, 2011 at 9:29 am #


          This story is about receiving serious information that needs answers. Fish and Game has so far failed.
          All we and the public need is a response and a discussion from DFG on this subject. Sometimes
          the news has to get topics out in the open with the hope of more information.
          Benett Kessler

    • Rob December 28, 2011 at 8:28 am #

      The proper term for these horses is “Feral”.


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