BLM Using Sprinklers to Mitigate Heat Wave's Effects

BLM Using Sprinklers to Mitigate Heat Wave's Effects

At the BLM’s Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Center outside Reno, Nev., a sprinkler attached to the panel of a large wild horse pen sprays water while horses eat in the distance.

Photo: Bureau of Land Management

In expectation of continued three-digit temperatures this weekend and to address public concerns, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Center, located outside Reno, Nev., has installed sprinklers to three of the large, outside wild horse pens and five mare/foal pens as a stop-gap measure to attempt to reduce heat levels inside the corrals. BLM staff will observe how the animals respond to the sprinklers, which could include avoidance, or chewing on and rubbing against the sprinklers, which are foreign structures to the animals.

The use of shade shelters in corrals has been considered and evaluated by BLM numerous times. Current policy is based on the following principles:

  • Wild horses and burros are accustomed to open environments and when their nutritional demands are met, they do well against the natural elements, including sun, rain, snow, and hot and cold temperatures. At Palomino Valley, the animals are fed hay each day; mineral blocks are available in each pen; and a continuous supply of water is available via automatic waterers.
  • Open corrals with plenty of sunlight have proven to be the best way to minimize disease-causing organisms. The BLM's open corrals enable the drying effects of the sun and wind to take effect. The corrals are sloped to minimize the pooling of precipitation in the pens and to allow it to channel to the exterior of the facility.
  • Due to the temperament of the animals, the social hierarchy between the animals, and their unfamiliarity with shelters, the BLM feels that corrals without shelters are the safest approach. Shelters could create a potential obstacle for animals running and playing in the corrals and cause significant injuries. The BLM has wind breaks and/or shelters for sick animals. The “sick pens” do not have the same safety issues because the animals are in a smaller area with limited pressure from other animals.

Weather conditions, as well as determining the most appropriate way to address the needs of the animals, vary across the country. What works well and is needed for a small facility in the midwest might not be necessary or work well for a large facility in Southern California or Nevada, the BLM says. Each facility uses methods compatible with local animal husbandry practices to provide the best solution for maintaining the large numbers of animals for which the BLM provides care. Nonetheless, plans are underway for the BLM to consult the scientific research community to inform future options on this issue.

The Palomino Valley Center is the largest BLM preparation and adoption facility in the country with a capacity of 1,850 animals. It serves as the primary preparation center for wild horses and burros gathered from the public lands in Nevada and nearby states. Visitors wishing to adopt are encouraged to call the center prior to arrival at 775/475-2222. Public hours for visiting are held Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on the first Saturday of each month from 8 a.m.-noon.

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