Photo Essay- Palomino Valley Adoption Center

The Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Center is located twenty miles north of Reno, Nevada. The PVC is the country’s largest site in the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program.

New Incentive Leading to Significant Boost in Wild Horse Adoptions

As the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) continues to address the overpopulation of wild horses on public lands, a new incentive has been initiated this year to drive up the adoption rates at locations such as The Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Center (PVC) in Washoe County, Nevada.

Instituted in March of 2019, the BLM has been offering a $1,000 incentive to families adopting untrained horses.

According to Jason Lutterman, Public Affairs Specialist at BLM, over 6,500 horses have already been adopted this year West-wide. This year’s adoption numbers are already at a nearly 150% increase from last year’s numbers, the most in the program since 2005.

The Wild Horse and Burros Adoption Program began as a means to curb the overpopulation of wild horse and burro herds. When the animals are brought to designated facilities such as the PVC, they are given an identifiable freeze-mark, vaccinations, and prepared for domestic life

before being made available for adoption. However, adoptions are just one way the BLM is working to address the growing challenge of wild horse overpopulation in the West.

“Wild horse herds grow at a rate of 15-20% each year,” Lutterman said. “That means the overall population doubles every four years and triples every six years.”

The overpopulation of wild horses is in part the result of minimal threats to the wild horses and burros from predators, as well as the accessibility of natural resources on Nevada public lands. However, the fast-growing population leads to overgrazing and diminishes the availability of other natural resources like water.

“We want to keep herds at a level where the population can still be supported by the water sources on public lands while preventing starvation that can come from overgrazing,” Lutterman said.

Through the adoption program, both the horses and burros that remain on public lands and those that are taken into private homes are able to maintain a healthy and supportive environment in which to live.

As the largest BLM preparation and adoption facility for wild horses and burros in the country, Palomino Valley oversees intakes, trainings, and adoptions for the program. Most of the horses gathered from Nevada public lands and the surrounding states are brought to the Palomino Valley Center before being processed and shipped to other locations across the country for adoption.

The BLM looks forward to assessing their final wild horse and burro adoption statistics at the end of the fiscal year.

Recently acquired wild horses stand watch on a hillside at Palomino Valley Center. A majority of the horses are gathered from Nevada public lands, but some arrive from surrounding states such as California and Oregon.
While many wild horses can be skittish and wary of humans in the early stages of processing, others aren’t afraid to hide their curiosity. What’s often referred to as “spooking,” a side-ways jump or quick change in direction, is a tactic wild horses use to avoid potential threats or predators.
The wild horses gathered by the BLM graze in a number of open-air pens where they can roam and feed freely. A majority of the acquired horses at PVC will be shipped to off-range corrals in twelve states across the country where they will await adoption.
Trainers at the Palomino Valley Center work with the horses to prepare them for adoption in centers across the country. However, the BLM is now offering owners $1,000 to adopt an untrained horse, paid out in two installments of $500 and pending owners meet the program requirements.
The program also oversees the training and adoptions of burros, otherwise known as donkeys. Each animal taken in at the Palomino Valley Center receives an identifiable and painless freeze-mark, as seen on the collars of the two burros standing in the center of the image.
Although the Palomino Valley Center directly oversees only 50-100 adoptions a year, PVC plays an integral role in the adoption program as it ships most of their wild horses to satellite adoption events and off-range corrals across the country.
Wild horses gathered under the Bureau of Land Management’s adoption program receive all the protections that come with living on US government property, as confirmed by the presence of notices like these posted on many of the pens. According to the BLM’s website, any applicant seeking to adopt a wild horse or burro must not have any convictions for inhumane treatment of animals or have any violations of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act on their record.
Two horses graze near the feeding stalls of their own personal pens. If acquired horses are too old or are never adopted through the program, they are taken to off-range pastures to peacefully live out the remainder of their life.