(CBS) – Wild horses are up for adoption for as little as $25 in Northern California. The U.S. Forest Service is facilitating the purchasing of the animals, believed to be descendants of domesticated horses.
“It’ll be a Christmas present basically,” said Megan Highnote, who took her kids to the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals, part of the Modoc National Forest in Alturas, California, to adopt one of the animals.
With a lot to choose from, Highnote got the horse she has always wanted. “She’s a cremello, so she’s a solid white with two blue eyes, and I’ve been looking for one for a long time, and I haven’t been able to afford the $4,000 to $6,000 ones that look just like her,” she said.
At the Double Devil corrals, Highnote paid just $125 to adopt the horse.
“We have some amazing horses available at the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals,” said Ken Sandusky with the U.S. Forest Service. He said there are more than 240 horses of all ages, sizes and colors available for adoption at the corrals.
“The horse of your dreams is in this corral right now. We just need you to come out and pick them up,” he said.
There are 4,000 horses grazing on the rocky plateau of the Modoc National Forest, but there isn’t room for all of them. According to Sandusky, they are overgrazing the land. Speaking about the grass in 2018, he said, “There’s some examples around here where it’s probably three or four inches, but when it gets grazed right down to the nub there, there’s just no vegetation left and you can see how that’s just dying out.”
To try to control the number of wild horses, officials have rounded up about 1,000.
Some advocates are against it.
“Most Americans love horses, and they don’t want to see America’s iconic wild horses rounded up and sold for human consumption abroad,” said Ellie Price, the president of the board of directors at the American Wild Horse Campaign.
Efforts to appease both sides have fallen to the Forest Service, which won’t sell to just anyone.
“You have a year before you receive title on that horse and in that time, you’ll be asked to show that you are taking good care of that horse. The facility requirements — the horse needs a 20-by-20 enclosure and a walk-in barn, a three-sided barn,” Sandusky said.
Highnote has all that on the ranch she helps manage in Oregon. The Cremello is the second horse she adopted from the Double Devils corrals.
The horses are believed to be descendants of domesticated horses, but generations of living on their own made them wild, and now, the challenge is to tame them.
“This is definitely my diamond in the rough. This will be my holiday project for the next couple years,” Highnote said, adding it won’t be her last.