The state of Nevada will reassess its options for managing the Virginia Range horses after an attempt to solicit a new private owner failed.

The state has jurisdiction over the Virginia Range horses, which are classified as estrays—that is descend from domestic horses turned out on the range. Because the horses reside on state, local, and private land they are not protected under the federal Wild Free-Roaming Wild Horses and Burros Act. The herd became controversial when some area residents called for its removal to prevent horses from wandering onto public roadways and private property.

In 2016, the Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA) entered into an agreement with the nonprofit American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) to manage the herd. However, the NDA later announced that it was terminating that agreement and would transfer the horses to a private owner.

On April 16, NDA Director Jim Barbee said the agency had not received any formal proposals from potential new owners.

Suzanne Roy, AWHPC executive director, said the failure to solicit new herd ownership forces the state to explore alternative options.

“Now the Governor and Nevada Department of Agriculture must bring together all stakeholders to develop a comprehensive cooperative agreement to humanely manage these historic horses,” Roy said.

Until then, the NDA will continue managing the herd.

“We are still under the existing directive from the Board of Agriculture to manage the horses for public safety only,” Barbee said. “The next step is to go back to the board for further direction.”