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.
Twin Peaks Herd Management Area | Susanville, CA
Where To Find Them
If you find yourself near Susanville, California, a road trip over to see wild horses in the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area (HMA) should top your to-do list! The wild horses are located in Lassen County, about 25 miles northeast of Susanville. When you get there you will be surrounded by striking mountains, flat valley floors, and on the ground you’ll be walking amidst sweet smelling desert sagebrush, prickly squirreltail, and if you’re there at the right time, flowering bitterbrush.
When you find the wild ones, you will see a wide variety of beautiful black, chestnut, pinto and even appaloosa horses, adorably long-eared burros and mules. This is one of the few HMAs where wild mules live alongside the mustangs and burros, so seeing them in the wild is a very special experience.
About the Herds
Some of these horses originated from the reintroduced native horses brought back by the Spanish. To excite the history aficionado of your group, tell them the story of how some are descended from U.S. Army Cavalry horses released before and during World War I. The burros likely originated from historic sheep grazing operations in the area. When the sheepherders left, they abandoned the burros in the area and the ever-resilient animals continued to thrive.
The horses, burros, and mules peacefully share their habitat with other wildlife such as mule deer, quail, pronghorn antelope, and sage grouse. The current Appropriate Management Levels (AML) for wild horses is 448 to 758 horses and mules and 72-116 burros, despite their habitat being nearly 800,000-acres of both public and private lands.
Photos by the Bureau of Land Management
The last time the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conducted a roundup in this area was in 2010. The BLM estimated there were 2,303 wild horses and 282 burros, they planned to remove 1,855 horses and 210 burros. It was a six-week operation in August and September. At the time, this was one of the largest roundups conducted in California.
In 2019, the BLM released a ten-year plan for management in 2020. The goal is to reduce and manage populations at low AML over the next ten years. To put the AML in perspective, it works out to be one horse every 1,700 acres and one burro for almost every 11,00 acres. The BLM plans on rounding up and removing horses and burros, treating all mares and jennies with fertility control, manage a non-reproducing population of geldings and skew the wild horse sex ratio in favor of males. There has been no date set for the implementation of this plan yet.