Herds Across the West: Calico Mountains Wild Horses

Our blog series, Herds Across the West, examines wild horses and burros by herd, Herd Management Area (HMA) and state to provide a deeper understanding as we report on roundups and actions affecting each region.

Calico Mountains Herd Management Area | Gerlach, Nevada

About the Herds

The Calico Mountains, known for its breathtaking beauty and colorfully “painted” mountains, is home to hundreds of wild horses. The mountains line the Black Rock Desert. The name sound familiar? Every year the famed Burning Man Festival is hosted on the playas of the Black Rock Desert!

Here, mustangs run free as they have since the 1800s, when their ancestors were captured, “broken” and sent off to battle as Cavalry mounts overseas. They live peacefully in this remote range sharing their natural habitat with other animals like big horned sheep, coyotes, bobcats, sage grouse and many more. Desert shrubs like sagebrush, flowering horse bush, mountain mahogany flowers and so many more scatter the Calico Mountain range, making it the best place for plant enthusiasts to break out their identification books and see what they can find!

Unfortunately, during parts of the year the horses are forced to compete for resources on their habitat with privately-owned cattle, an issue plaguing wild horses across the west.


Where to Find Them

The Calico Mountain HMA is about 30 miles from the small Nevada town of Gerlach. The best way to see them is driving down Soldiers Meadow Road, also known as Humboldt County Road 200, a nonpaved winding road that takes you to the quiet serenity of middle of nowhere Nevada. There is no cell service so make sure you are fully prepared. Bring a map of the area, extra water, food and a spare tire. These horses are remote and can be hard to find, but if you’re up for an adventure it is beyond worth the trek!


Roundup Status

The horse’s Herd Management Area (HMA) is 160,831 acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and private land. The BLM has stated the Appropriate Management Level (AML) for these horses is 200-333. The last roundup in this area was from December 28th 2009 to February 4th, 2010. The BLM captured 1,922 wild horses from the Calico Mountains Complex. This roundup was of note due to the high death count and the stress it put on heavily pregnant mares. According to a past American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) report 86 horses died and 40 mares spontaneously aborted their foals. As of March 2020, there are no roundups planned for this area.

Photo by Mike Lorden

Photo by Mike Lorden