It is quite a sight to turn a corner and see a burro crossing the road, or walk into a clearing and find wild horses grazing. These animals are protected under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, having been declared "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West," and interfering with, handling, and feeding them is illegal. Besides the potential hefty fine and jail time, there is a high risk of being bitten or trampled because they are wild animals, so please keep your distance. A good rule of thumb is at least a school bus length away, and walk away (taking your food) if they approach you.
Not only is it illegal to touch, feed, or approach them, it is also detrimental to their health! Equines have a very specific diet of vegetation, and sensitive stomachs, so offering any of your picnic food creates an unhealthy diet and craving for the "junk food". Once they develop an understanding that "human = food" they lose some of their natural fear and begin to approach people, picnic spreads, and camp sites more and more aggressively to seek out easy treats. When horses and burros get used to being fed, they can hurt humans in search of food and ultimately have to be removed from the forest. Other times, the desire for treats leads them to linger near the road and cars, causing them to be hit and killed.
Occasionally spotted in both the desert foothills and forested woodlands of the Spring Mountains, horses and burros were introduced to America starting in the 1500s. After their eventual release by miners and ranchers, these formerly-domesticated horses and burros were able to adapt to Nevada ecosystems. Wild horses are often similar in size to their relatives found in paddocks and ranches, though their weight can vary based on available vegatation and water. Slightly smaller than the wild horse, adult burros weigh around 500 pounds and graze on many different types of vegetation. These feral animals are known to kick and bite, so always enjoy them from a safe distance, never attempt to feed them, and be cautious on mountain roadways.
Keep the wild horses and burros wild, and yourself safe, by giving them distance!