Herds across the West: Montgomery Pass Mustangs

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

Montgomery Pass Wild Horses | Border of California and Nevada 


The Montgomery Pass wild horses (also known as the Mono Lake horses) are located on the California/Nevada border. Jointly managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the United States Forest Service (USFS), they roam amongst a forest of pinyon pine and the high desert region northeast of Bishop, California. There, they live peacefully surrounded by mountains -- the Sierras to the west and the White Mountains to the south. 

The Montgomery Pass wild horses live on a habitat consisting of 49,023 acres of BLM land and 1,792 acres of a mix of private and other USFS public lands, for a total of 50,815 acres. 
Mono Lake horses

Apex predators vs. roundups

The Montgomery Pass horses are an important example of how protecting apex predators is key to the management of wild horse populations. In the past 30 years, there hasn’t been a single roundup of this herd -- neither aerial or bait-trap. Their populations are managed entirely by mountain lion predation.

Read up on this study demonstrating how humane wild horse management and predator protection work hand in hand.

“This horse population is not restricted by perimeter fences and has not experienced removals for the past 30 years. The latter is largely the result of a well-established pattern of mountain lion (Felis concolor) predation on these horses, with evidence of a pattern of seasonal prey switching by the mountain lions between 70 horse foals and mule deer (Turner, Wolfe and Kirkpatrick 1992b; Turner and Morrison 2001).This unusual relationship has prevented horse population growth, thereby obviating the need for removals.” (Environmental influences on movements and distribution of a wild horse [Equus caballus] population in western Nevada, USA: a 25-year study)." 

mono lake 
How you can view this herd

Since the Montgomery Pass horses live between the mountains, they’re remote and can be hard to find. But, if you want a special wild horse viewing experience, you can join a University of California at Davis tour. These tours are a three-day trek and camping experience on horseback. Lucky participants can view these beautiful horses in their natural element and learn more about the ecology of their environment. The program consists of a series of informal presentations and open-ended discussion about wild horses and their management. 

You learn more about the UC Davis program here:  https://cpe.ucdavis.edu/section/mustangs-living-legacy