Wild Horses: Urbanization

Wild Horses

The Mustang Dilemma



Reno, Nevada, one of the fastest growing cities in America, has encroached on the range of the Nevada wild horse herds. The wild horses of the desert find themselves living in the suburbs amidst paved highways, stockade fences, and swing sets. Their once naturally pristine landscape is now riddled with man's burgeoning suburbs, power lines, and traffic.

Some of the citizens of Reno are enchanted with wild horses. But not everyone loves the them wandering the shared domain. Some people build walls and put up fences to keep them out. Dawn Lappin has lived in Reno all her life, and she's seen what happens when the modern world collides with the spirit of the mustang. She sees the potential for more problems down the road.

Animal activists lobby for more land in protected refuges, fewer cattle on federal lands, and more habitat for the horses. Ranchers are their opponents. Some environmentalists fight to have the number of wild horse herds drastically reduced, pointing out that feral animals compete with and limit the growth of natural species, like big horn sheep, elk, and deer. Developers and homeowners worry that the wild horses will injure someone as they continue to graze suburbs now inhabited by burgeoning subdivisions and strip malls.

The concerns are not totally unfounded, and very real problems do exist for the horses themselves. Wild horses are now protected from human hunters, eliminating their greatest predator. Other than an occasional mountain lion attack, there are no longer any natural predators. If not controlled, the mustang herds could grow so big they would overwhelm their range. As housing developments continue to spread into horse country. wild horses could be vulnerable to starvation, thirst, and disease, crowd out other wildlife, use up much needed resources by rancher's herds, and cause even more problems.

Clearly the problem is an ongoing one. The arguments from all sides have basis in fact and are complex and multifaceted. The solution can only be approached from a variety of perspectives. There are many options for the future management of this admirable animal, some already implemented and others planned for the future.

Man has accomplished a great deal in partnership with these creatures of beauty and grace, and the horse has contributed significantly to the settling, securing, and flourishing of this country. After examining the history of man's relationship with the horse and the current problems they face from a myriad of perspectives, we may better understand the necessity of preserving this icon of our past, insuring them the dignity and freedom they require to survive today.



Dwindling Space          Urbanization
Ecological Checks and Balances