Information on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild horse and burro management in the State of Oregon. Information is from public information sources and, can include, unique research and field observations made by Wild Horse Education Volunteers.
Terms in charts
HA- Herd Area, Arbitrary areas defined in 1971 by BLM, without regard to seasonal herd movement, where wild herds were observed. Officially “zeroed out” there could still be wild herds in these areas.
HMA- Herd Management Area- Areas designated for management of wild herds. There were 303 HMAs; now there are less than 180, and of those 70% have populations that are no longer genetically viable.
Wild Horse Education’s BLM ”glossary” HERE
These is the latest available stat sheets for the State of Oregon.
Information on this page was researched and written by WHE volunteer, Connie J. Cunningham.
OREGON/WASHINGTON WILD HORSE PROGRAM – BLM
US FOREST SERVICE TERRITORIES – MURDERERS CREEK AND BIG SUMMIT
OREGON/WASHINGTON WILD HORSE PROGRAM
BURNS DISTRICT – 541-573-4400
Source of information: http://www.blm.gov/or/districts/burns/wildhorse/
The Burns District is located in southeastern Oregon, extending from the Oregon-Nevada border on the south into the Blue Mountains on the north, a distance of nearly 200 miles. There are over 3.36 million acres of public land and it is divided into two Resource Areas: Three Rivers Resource Area, roughly 1.68 million acres in the northern portion of the District; and Andrews Resource Area, 1.68 million acres of public land in the south. Within the District boundary there are also large areas of private, other Federal and State lands.
LINK TO MANAGED HMA AND HA MAPS
LINK TO UNMANAGED HMA AND HA MAPS
There are over 1,000 wild horses roaming within eight Herd Management Areas (HMAs) in the Burns District. These areas present unique opportunities for viewing wild horse herds and their habitat. You can find colorful bands of wild horses scattered throughout the Burns District’s eight beautiful HMAs: Palomino Buttes, Warm Springs, Kiger, Riddle Mountain, South Steens, Heath Creek/Sheepshead, Alvord-Tule Springs, and Stinkingwater.
More than 1,000 wild horses roam within eight Herd Management Areas. The District has a primary role in coordinating and conducting roundups of excess horses throughout the State. At the Burns District Wild Horse Corrals, the animals are prepared for adoption through the National Adopt-A-Horse and Burro Program.
Once excess wild horses in Oregon/Washington are gathered from the range, they are brought to Oregon’s Wild Horse Corral Facility for preparation for the BLM’s Adopt-A-Horse Program. Located just 3 miles from the Burns District Office along U.S. Highway 20, the Corral Facility is home to a wide variety of wild horses throughout the year, and occasionally a few burros as well. The Burns District is responsible for coordinating wild horse gathers and adoption events, and also for providing overall guidance regarding the management of wild horses in Oregon. The Facility is open for viewing weekdays, 7:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Oregon’s Wild Horse Corral Facility link: http://www.blm.gov/or/districts/burns/wildhorse/corral.php
The natural structure of a family of horses is the band. The dominant stallion is the boss. His role is to protect his band from danger and increase his harem of mares and foals. The band is led in its daily routine of grazing and watering by the lead mare.
Wild horses are shy creatures and must be approached with caution. Wild horses run instinctively when in danger, but a stallion can show aggression when he fears his band is being threatened. When searching for bands of wild horses, stud piles are the first sign of horse activities. These large piles of manure are territorial markings left by rival males. Recent horse activity is determined by the freshness of these piles.
This HMA is located fifteen miles southwest of Burns on the south side of Highway 20/395. The herd area runs south and southeast from the highway towards Harney Lake along the Double O Road. Horses in this area generally show colors including palomino, buckskin, red dun, sorrel, and bay, and grow to an average size of 15-16 hands, 1,000-1,200 pounds. The Palomino herd, which ranges in size from approximately 32 to 64 horses, enjoys native grasses in sagebrush and juniper vegetation zones as well as bluebunch wheat grass and Idaho Fescue.
The Palomino Buttes HMA encompasses over 71,000 acres of flat to gently rolling hills and canyons covered with Big sagebrush, low sagebrush and juniper. There are a number of large playas, some with water holes.
No other horse in America is quite like the Kiger Mustang found on Steens Mountain in southeastern Oregon. Most wild horses are of mixed influence and characteristics while the Kiger Mustangs possess many characteristics of the original Spanish Mustang. The word mustang was derived from the word mesteno, which meant “unclaimed sheep” in the Spanish language and later came to mean “wild” or “unclaimed” horse. Mustang came about as an English language slang term for mesteno.
The Spanish Mustang was a part of early American history, having roots in Native American history, and is the horse that helped settle the west. At one time it was thought to be extinct on the range. Since the Kiger Mustangs may well be one of the best remaining examples of the Spanish Mustang, their preservation is extremely important.
The Kiger Mustang exhibits physical color characteristics known as the “dun factor” which were also common to many of the horse the Spaniards reintroduced to North America in the 1600’s. Color classifications of the dun factor are: dun, red dun, grulla (mouse gray), buckskin, and variations of these colors. Markings on animals with the dun factor include dorsal stripes; zebra stripes on the knees and hocks; chest, rib and arm bars; outlined ears; the top one-third of the ear on its backside darker that the body color; fawn coloring on the inside of the ears; bi-colored mane and tail; face masks and cob-webbing on the face. The less white these horses have, the stronger the dun factor. An individual horse having the dun factor may have many but not all of these markings.
Kiger Mustangs have the physical conformation of both the tarpan and oriental hotblood horses from which the original Spanish Mustangs came. They have small, round bones, small feet and very little feather on their legs and fetlocks. Their eyes are wide set and prominent. These animals also have distinctly hooked ear tips and fine muzzles. The Kiger Mustangs also look very much like the modern day Spanish Sorraias. They are indeed a unique breed of wild horse.
The BLM manages two special areas in southeastern Oregon for wild horse with Spanish Mustang characteristics. The two areas are located in the Burns District and are known as the Kiger and Riddle Mountain Herd Management Areas.
Seeing the beauty of the Kiger Mustangs in the wild with their classic coloration and markings will add much to your enjoyment of our western heritage. It is an experience you won’t soon forget.
The northern boundary of this HMA is twenty miles southwest of Burns, west of Highway 205, and extends to south and east to encompass 474,000 acres of gently rolling sage covered hills and rim rocks with small valleys in between. This area is home to 111 to 202 horses, ranging in size from 14.2-15.2 hands high and 1,000-1,200 pounds, and approximately 20 burros. This is the only HMA in the Burns District where burros are present and has the widest variety of horse colors including appaloosa, blue and red roan, palomino, buckskin, sorrel, brown, bay and pinto. The burros may be seen in gray or brown.
Animals in the Warm Springs area survive on a diet of bluebunch wheat grass and Idaho Fescue within the sagebrush vegetation zone.
This HMA is located seventy miles south of Burns along Highway 205 and the southern portion of the Steens Mountain Loop Road (on the west side of Steens Mountain). South Steens horses are typically the most visible, even though their “area” includes over 127,000 acres of rugged, high desert country. Pinto, sorrel, bay, palomino, brown, black, red roan, and dun colors may be seen on the 159-304 horses who occupy this territory. They range in size from 14.2-16 hands high, 900-1,000 pounds and rely on a diet of native bunchgrasses within sagebrush and juniper cover. Perennial streams, natural ponds and springs are common water sources.
This HMA is located ninety miles southeast of Burns along Highway 78 and East Steens Road near the Sheepshead Mountains. The herd area covers 62,000 acres of rugged, high desert country and is home to 61-102 horses. Sizes range from 14-16 hands high and 950-1,150 pounds and colors vary from black and brown to dun, bay and sorrel. Native bunchgrasses within big sagebrush cover provide food for the herd while perennial streams, natural ponds, springs and large playa lakes provide water.
This HMA is located eight miles southeast of Burns and encompasses over 350,000 acres northeast of Fields, Oregon, all west of the East Steens Road. Bay, black, sorrel, brown, palomino, and buckskin horses range here and feed on bluebunch wheatgrass, Sandberg blue grass and other native grasses. Between 73 and 140 animals make this area home, each ranging in size from 14.2-15.2 hands high and 950-1,150 pounds. Much of the area terrain is flat to gently rolling hills covered by salt desert vegetation, playas, or dunes. The southernmost portion of the HMA contains steep hills and rim rock with small valleys in between.
This HMA is located eleven miles east and south of Diamond, Oregon on the north side of Steens Mountain. The herd size ranges from 33 to 56 horses of varying colors such as dun, buckskin, grulla, bay and brown. Horses range from 14-15 hands high and 900-1,000 pounds and rely on native bunchgrasses within sagebrush and juniper cover for their diet. The herd area covers 28,000 acres of rugged, high desert country with extremely rocky surfaces divided by deep canyons, rim rocks and plateaus. Water sources include perennial streams, natural ponds and springs.
This HMA is located thirty miles east of Burns. The area encompasses 78,000 acres east of the Crane-Buchanan road, north of Crane, Oregon, and almost entirely west of the Warm Springs Road (a portion of the Warm Springs Reservoir, which is east of the Warm Springs Road, is also in the HMA). Approximately 40-80 horses range in this area, ranging from 14-16 hands high and 1,000-1,200 pounds. Colors may vary from black or sorrel to bay or roan. Native bunchgrasses within sagebrush and juniper cover, as well as bluebunch wheatgrass, Idaho Fescue, Thurber’s needlegrass, basin wildrye and bottlebrush squirrel tail, provide a healthy diet for Warm Springs horses. The herd area terrain consists of moderate to steep rocky slopes and has several perennial streams and springs. Winters here are typically long and cold. Murderer’s Creek Wild Horse Territory
US FOREST SERVICE MURDERERS CREEK HERD MANAGEMENT AREA
Source of information: http://www.blm.gov/or/resources/whb/files/MurderersCreekWHT.pdf
LOCATION: The Murderer’s Creek Wild Horse Territory was established in 1972. It is located SW of John Day, OR in the Malheur Nat’l Forest.
ACREAGE: It includes 73,615 acres of Forest Service and 34,954 acres of Bureau of Land Management lands which is managed by the Malheur National Forest, John Day, OR.
ELEVATION/LANDMARKS: 4,500 – 6,500 feet.
TOPOGRAPHY: The “timber horses” of the Murderer’s Creek Territory inhabit mountainous terrain. These horses tend to stay at the high elevations year‐round, living in bands of three to eight animals. Despite snow depths of 2 to 4 feet in these areas, the horses have adapted using timber thickets for shelter, staying near springs and utilizing the south slopes of ridges which tend to melt off earliest in the spring to provide forage. More than 50 percent of the horses of the Murderer’s Creek are “timber horses.” They live in heavily timbered areas of ponderosa pine and mixed conifer. Most of the horses gathered in 2008 came from the forested area of the Territory.
WILDLIFE: The horses of Murderer’s Creek HMA coexist with mule deer, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, bear, cougar, and myriad smaller forest animals. Horses have been observed at salt licks with deer and grazing in the company of elk. One mare was seen on numerous occasions running with a herd of elk.
HERD SIZE; 50‐140 Head
HORSE COLORS: The forest horses tend to be black, bay or brown in color, whereas the horses in the western, more open part of the territory, are grays, duns, and sorrels.
SIZE OF HORSES: 13.3 TO 15.1 Hands
GENERAL INFORMATION/HISTORY: The lineage of the Murderer’s Creek horses is diverse and quite debatable. Although it is likely that horses found in the area by early explorers (probably escaped from Indian herds) left their mark in the area, there can be no dispute that many of the Murderer’s Creek horses are descendants of animals lost or turned loose by settlers and ranchers. Dr. Gus Cothran performed genetic analysis of this herd in 2000 ‐2001. He found that this herd ‐which is physically isolated from other herd areas ‐is the most unique, bearing the least similarity to the other Oregon herds studied. He found that this herd bears closest genetic resemblance to the American light racing and saddle breeds as well as to the New World Iberian breeds.
Most areas of the Murderer’s Creek Territory are accessible by road during the summer months. Visitors may get a glimpse of horses retreating into the trees. Stud piles along any road are an indicator that you are close to horses. It has been said that these horses are more like elk than horses. Despite this reputation, the “timber horses” tend to settle down shortly after capture, and they are generally quieter when worked with than their open country cousins of the west end of the territory
US FOREST SERVICE BIG SUMMIT HERD MANAGEMENT AREA
Source of information: http://www.blm.gov/or/resources/whb/files/BigSummitHMA.pdf
LOCATION: The herd area is about 30 miles east of Prineville in the Ochoco National Forest.
ACREAGE: Over 27,000 acres
ELEVATION/LANDMARKS: Elevation ranges from 4,000 to over 7,000 feet. Climate varies from cold, snowy winters to hot summers.
TOPOGRAPHY/VEGETATION: Area is timbered country with an herbaceous understory characterized by both heavily timbered country and open meadows divided by perennial and intermittent stream channels with numerous springs. WILD LIFE: A large array of wildlife exists in the territory from deer mouse to big game animals like deer and
elk; a variety of birds from wood‐peckers to raptors can be found as well as predators like bear and cougar. HERD SIZE: 55 to 65 head HORSE COLORS: Typically bay/brown with some white markings, also black, sabino paint and palomino SIZE OF HORSES: 800 to 1000 pounds, 13‐15 hands GENERAL HISTORY: The first wild horses originated on the Ochocos over 80 years ago, according to local residents. Horses either escaped from, or were let loose by various ranchers in the vicinity. Horses established their territories on and around Round Mountain, on which they continue to reside
How about Washington State?
Source of information: http://washingtonlandscape.blogspot.com/2010/09/wild-horses-and-prairie-in-sky.html
Observations of Washington State Landscapes, Geology, Geography, Ecology, History and Land Use – Dan McShane
Up through the 1980s a small herd lived on the Hanford Atomic Energy Reserve, but has since been removed. The reserve is one of the largest intact wild land areas in eastern Washington and in 2000 a large portion was designated the Hanford Reach National Wilderness Area.
Wild horses live on the Yakima Indian Reservation and there are wild horses on the Colville Indian Reservation…
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