"Good Intentions" Killing Wild Horses
Illegal feeding and watering by residents|
luring wild horses onto busy Federal highway
Story date: December 17, 2003
A band of wild horses preparing to cross the highway
Occidental, NV -- It was a few minutes before sunrise. A lone stallion, named Phantom as he often seems to come out of nowhere, appeared out of the sage. He walked north along a dirt path and studied the roadway from about 300 yards away. Shortly afterward three other members of his band appeared in the gray morning light.
He studied a couple of pickup trucks parked alongside the highway. They weren't usually parked there. He tested the wind, then herded his band back to a gully adjacent to a nearby housing tract.
The stallion then returned back towards the highway. Eventually satisfied that the parked vehicles posed no threat he walked back a few steps toward his band and waited. The three remaining horses came out of the small draw and joined him.
The band then proceeded to an opening in the fence line where a private lane, "Kelsey Court," connects with US-50.
There was a steady stream of commute traffic on the highway. The horses, normally reticent to cross the highway at night due to the reflective patterns of Strieter-Lite safety reflectors, were not discouraged now that it was early daylight. However visibility was not good and a young stallion had been struck and killed near this location a few days earlier at dawn.
The band starts to cross the highway. Notice how difficult it is to see Phantom, the gray horse that is just in front of the orange "Merging Traffic" sign in this photo.
Noticing their approach, a couple of wild horse advocates set out some road flares to warn approaching motorists. On this morning the band crossed the road safely.
On other mornings employees of the Department of Agriculture or NDOT noticed wild bands preparing to cross the roadway and they worked to slow approaching traffic.
Other times the animals weren't so lucky. Poor visibility and inattentive drivers have resulted in several automobile accidents and several dead horses.
Traffic slows as the band crosses the highway. Can you see Phantom on the center line?
Horses safely on the other side.
Unfortunately their safety was short lived.