Virginia Range Fertility Control


We're not just talking about solutions. We're implementing them. 





Keeping Wild Horses Wild

Wild mustangs are deeply entwined in the history and culture of Nevada. Polling shows that 86% of Nevadans agree that mustangs should be protected as important symbols for the state and the West. But as rapid development consumes more and more open space, climate change increasingly impacts the landscape, and water becomes more scarce, humane solutions are needed to manage wild horses in balance with the landscape and the humans and other animals who inhabit it.

That’s where the American Wild Horse Campaign comes in, with our groundbreaking fertility control program to manage the historic Virginia Range mustangs that roam across a 300,000-acre habitat in the greater Reno area. While controversy often surrounds the issue of wild horse management, the Virginia Range program has broad-based community support, including participation from five local wild horse organizations, support from the business community (lead by Blockchains LLC), and bipartisan support from Nevada elected officials, including Governor Steve Sisolak and former Minority Assembly Leader Jim Wheeler.





Fertility Control: A Humane Solution for Wild Horse Management

The program delivers PZP birth control, a non-hormonal immunocontraceptive vaccine, to wild mares via remote darting. The vaccine is documented by 30 years of science to be safe and 97% effective in preventing pregnancy without impacting the mustangs’ natural behaviors. The program’s cornerstone is an online database that includes 3,000 horses individually identified by color, markings, social affiliation and darting history (for mares).

The goal for the PZP program is to reduce the population growth rates of the wild horses on the Virginia Range, thereby decreasing the number of horses who will be subject to inhumane roundups/removals and possible slaughter; improving the health of the horses, especially the mares; reducing public safety concerns, such as horse-vehicle collision; and relieving grazing pressures on their habitat and improving its ecology.

Read Our Year 3 Report

“AWHC extends our gratitude to Governor Steve Sisolak, Minority Leader Jim Wheeler, Blockchains and NDA Director Jennifer Ott for honoring the public’s interest in protecting these horses and getting this win-win program implemented. We are pleased to be back in the field, implementing humane solutions for population management of the cherished Virginia Range mustangs.”

- Suzanne Roy, AWHC Executive Director


Largest Fertility Control Program in the World

So far, our volunteers have donated approximately 4,800 hours of their time in field darting the horses with the vaccine and documenting horses in our online database. In just a year, they have delivered 2,100 administered doses.  This is more horses than the entire Bureau of Land Management (BLM), with its $80-million-a-year wild horse and burro program budget, did in all of 2018. According to the Science and Conservation Center, the Virginia Range fertility control program is the largest in the world.

Here's how it works.

Volunteers are trained through a PZP certification class offered by the Science and Conservation Center. Training involves learning to identify, dart, and document wild horses, so herd members are tracked each season. On the range, volunteers team up in darter/documenter teams to gather data and vaccinate mares. Once a mare is darted, the dart is retrieved, data is entered, and that mare will not become pregnant for the next year. After a mare is darted three times, she is vaccinated for a lifetime.

Our darting team consists of 15 volunteers who also represent local coalition partners Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association, Wild Horse Connection, and Wild Horse Preservation League.

AWHC is proud of our partnership with local organizations that work on behalf of our wild herds and our western rangelands. These include Nevada-based wild horse protection organizations: Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association, Wild Horse Preservation League, Hidden Valley Wild Horse Protection Fund, Wild Horse Connection.

Get involved! 

We now have a powerful case study to demonstrate that humane wild horse management is not only viable, it’s also feasible. Looking ahead, we hope to expand our fertility control program in other areas of Nevada. Working together, we can preserve one of the greatest symbols of freedom in America — our wild horses.

If you live in the Reno area and want to get involved to Keep Wild Horses Wild? Sign up to volunteer! 

Volunteer Opportunities