Remote areas of the western United States where grasses and other grazing
plants are available. Isolated herds are found on some of the barrier
islands along the Atlantic coast.
Description: Mustangs are descendants of domesticated horses that
have escaped or been released into the wild. Horses are large, powerful
herbivores that vary in color, size, and mass.
Spotting them: During the summer, wild horses can be observed feeding
on grasses and forbs in prairies and meadows. During the winter, they
browse on saltbush, sagebrush, and other small shrubs. Throughout the
West, wild horses compete with cattle for edible vegetation. Horses live
in harems consisting of a single male with mares and their foals. As the
young males reach maturity, the resident stallion drives them from the
group. These males form bachelor groups until they are able
to establish a harem of their own. Mares give birth to one colt (very
rarely 2) during the spring. They have twins on very rare occasions.
Discussion: Although accurate population figures are difficult
to obtain because of the remoteness and rugged nature of the land where
the mustangs live, the number of wild horses has been estimated between
30,000 and 45,000. In some places wild horses are overgrazing their ranges.
The Bureau of Land Management rounds up excess horses and makes them available
improves the habitats where wild horses live by enhancing the growth of
grasses and forbs. Wild horses are generally able to escape from wildland
fires although they have been killed in hot, fast-moving fires.