Horse deaths not result of disease

SUSANVILLE - Disease has been ruled out as the killer of 18 horses held in a Bureau of Land Management corral in Susanville.

Veterinarians working with the BLM have determined that stress, poor physical condition, and in some cases, injuries, caused the recent death of the horses, which died days after they were removed from public rangelands.

"Our examination of the horses and the results of blood and tissue tests showed no evidence of a contagious disease," said veterinarian Rich Meinert, who investigated the horse deaths along with a veterinarian from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "We did find that many of the horses were weak because of limited feed and water on their ranges that have been much drier than recent years. Evidently, the dust and stress of the gathers were just too much for some of the animals."

Laboratory tests on blood and tissue samples showed some horses suffered from an allergic pneumonia, while others had heart and liver problems, according to Meinert. Additional test results are pending.

BLM Eagle Lake Field Manager Linda Hansen said the horses were not run over excessive distances or herded too quickly during the gathers. She said additional precautions to protect the horses' health will be taken when gathering operations resume today in the High Rock Canyon region of northwest Nevada.

"We will be watering down the capture pens and keeping a watchful eye on how quickly the animals are herded," she said. "Our helicopter pilot is very experienced at safely moving bands of horses toward the capture pens."

BLM Surprise Field Office Manager Susie Stokke said rangelands in the northwest corner of Nevada have been much drier than the past few years, following the light precipitation of last winter, and the hot, dry summer months. She said it is critical that BLM remove excess horses from the range to protect their health, and the health of the rangelands.

With the contagious disease concerns eased and dust reduction plans in place, BLM crews plan to resume operations to remove a total of 300 horses from the High Rock, Wall Canyon and Nut Mountain herd management areas in northwest Nevada, to reduce populations to appropriate management levels. They will be offered for public adoption in the BLM's "Adopt a Horse or Burro" program.

Currently, the agency is conducting emergency gathers in several areas of the west where drought and wildfires have damaged habitat. BLM expects to remove about 4,000 animals from the range in these gathers, and offer them for public adoption as well.

For information on these emergency gathers, or adopting a wild horse or burro, contact (866) 4MUSTANGS, a toll free number or visit the internet at


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