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USFWS - Sheldon

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Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge
Photo copyright USFWS

Sheldon National Wildlife Range was created in 1931, to provide habitat for wildlife, particularly pronghorn antelope, and is under the jurisdiction of the US Fish & Wildlife Service. At that time horses were believed to be a feral invasive species, and management laws plans are still based on that assumption.

Sheldon range scenes taken by Nancy Kerson in June, 2006

The area adjoins the Calico-Black Rock Complex of BLM HMA's to the South and Oregon's Beaty's Butte HMA to the North, is very close to Carter Reservoir to the West. Historically, local ranchers managed these wild herds, mixing desirable modern domestic stock with the original Spanish horses. The region was a Cavalry Re-Mount area, where quality Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Morgan, and Draft stallions were deliberately released into the wild herds, for the purpose of capturing and selling the offspring to the U.S. and European Cavalries for the various wars during the late 1800's and early 1900's.

These bloodlines, combined with many generations (since the coming of the tractor) of Mother Nature's demanding breeding program, have resulted in herds that are large, colorful, sturdy and well-built. The Sheldon horses are reported by many adopters to have excellent minds.

The area is rich in mineral treasures, and the burros are the hardy descendants of animals who worked for the miners and prospectors.

USFWS photo

Because Sheldon is not administered by the BLM, it is not in the adopt-a-horse business, and has no facilities or budget for holding, processing, and adopting out wild horses & burros on a large scale. So originally they worked with concerned individuals as well as a range of non-profit rescue organizations, to process and place the captured animals.

Carr's Wild Horse & Burro Ranch in Tennessee is one of the facilities used to transport and manage adoptions of Sheldon horses and burros.

Sheldon has 3 main "home ranges" and the horses at each differ from the others. One is dominated by spectacular pinto patterns, another is mostly solid colors, and the third has cremes (palomino, buckskin) and duns.

Photos: Lesley Neuman

Above: Scenes from the 2004 gather, thanks to Lesley Neuman

Sheldon burros adopted by Chris Berkov & Sarah Bulgatz and their son, Max
Cynthia Noel writes:

I have a stallion we bought (they sold the horses thru the Fish & Wildlife Agency--not BLM) from the Sheldon National Forrest herd--he was a 3 yr old when we got him and was wild.  He is now my baby!  I am attaching some pics of him.  He likes to stand with his chin on the fence and doze (see pic).  And he LOVES to take a bite out of the feed bucket while you hold it for him.  Of course scratching (any area), holding grass or hay for him to eat is ALWAYS acceptable.  He jumped the fence twice and made a big escape all the way around the barn and back to his stall door!  I don't think it ever occurred to him to run away.  He was very easy to gentle and SO smart.  I was supposed to get 8 more paint mares from his herd--but things fell through with the deal.  My stallion's name is Mountain Moonlight (aka Pretty Boy).

I wish I had a whole pasture full just like him!  We had originally picked out another B&W stud--but he was older and we were kind of worried about if we could handle him--so got Moonlight instead. Compared to the other one Moonlight is "tiny"--the other one was probably 17-18 hands--a big tall boy!  Moonlight is not a little fella by any means. 

Marla had sent me some pics of babies out of some of the mares from that same gather--attached is one of the baby pics (I am not sure who owns the mare--but the baby is beautiful). 

ALL of the horses I saw from that gather
were beautiful--not a bad one in the bunch.  A couple of friends of mine also got horses from there--2 more studs and a filly--but they were

- Cynthia Noel

Belle Bundy's "Apache Clouds"

Fran Steffans on Piaso, adopted as a 9-year-old stud

Little Traveler & Flora Steffans

Laureen Sutton & Gabe

Girls with Lesley Neuman's "Sheldon"

Flora Steffans and John Wayne, an orphan that she raised

Lesley Neuman's adopted Sheldon colt, appropriately named Sheldon, now all grown up



Paula Carr says:

"I can't tell you just how beautiful they are... outstanding!

Best looking horses we have seen in the twenty-six years of adoptions.
How this will work is:  All pintos - $ 300.00
                            Pinto mother with pinto baby= $ 450.00
                            All other colors $ 150.00
                            Mother with baby (non-pinto) 200.00
Horses come with Coggins.... No checks or credit cards.. just cash.
No rules, regulations .... if you take them home and you don't like, then you can sell, trade or whatever.  Just so they don't go to the killers.
Stock trailers only.
Call me when you want to come : 615-654-2180
                                     cell phone 615-490-7777
Paula Carr

Link to SHELDON USFWS Wild Horse & Burro Page

A couple of real wild Sheldon babies with their new owners

A Cautionary word from Paula Carr, adoption agent, to potential Sheldon adopters: Please understand that you will be dealing with VERY wild horses (just rounded up) and you must have the facilities and resources to care for them. PLAN AHEAD!

The USFWS has not, at this time, a system of compliance checks, etc. to make sure adopters are doing a good job. But that doesn't mean you don't need to do exactly the same things you would if you were adopting from BLM. BLM regulations are there for a reason - make sure you have BLM-spec facilities ( 6 Ft. High pipe panel pen that can be entered directly from you trailer, etc.) You can't come to that realization AFTER you have them. 

Understand, too, that freshly-gathered horses are much wilder than the ones you usually get at BLM adoptions. Those horses have already spent some time, usually months, in captivity, have been fed and watered by humans, run through chutes, given shots and blood tests, loaded and unloaded into trucks and trailers, etc, all of which takes some of the edge off their wildness by the time you adopt them. They are still quite wild, but nothing like a freshly gathered horse! BE PREPARED!

Beautiful back country in the Sheldon refuge


June 2006 wild horse gather at Catnip Lake

One of many lakes in the Sheldon


Duffarena Pond


Burro mother and foal

Entering the Sheldon Refuge by the back entrance. Can you find the coyote?

Wild Horse & Burro Habitat Areas:

BLM-Managed Wild Horse & Burro Herd Management Areas:
Arizona  California  Colorado  Idaho  Montana  Nevada  New Mexico  Oregon  Utah
BLM Holding & Adoption Centers Long-Term Holding Facilities

Non-BLM Wild Horse Areas:
Atlantic Coast  Central USA 
State of Nevada Dept. of Agriculture (Reno-Area Comstock/Virginia Range "Estrays")
US Forest Service Wild Horse Territories  Sheldon USFWS 

Wild Horse Areas not included in this website: Indian Reservations, Private Lands