BLM horse facility near Reno closed due to 130 animal deaths
September 26, 2007
RENO ” Federal land managers on Wednesday temporarily shut down the National Wild Horse and Burro Center in northern Nevada, where 130 wild horses recently have died from health problems that could pose a threat to workers and visitors.
The voluntary closure of the center in Palomino Valley about 20 miles north of Reno is a preventive measure because the salmonella bacteria found in some of the mustangs can infect people and domestic animals, officials for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said.
The center’s 160 acres of corals serve as a national holding facility for up to 1,650 animals the BLM rounds up from public rangeland to be vaccinated and marked while awaiting shipment under the agency’s wild horse adoption program.
The problems apparently stem from about 1,000 unhealthy horses that were gathered in northwest Nevada’s Jackson Mountains in early September. Many of them were extremely thin and weak due to a lack of food and water resulting from extended drought conditions, BLM officials said.
Consequently, those horses have had trouble adjusting to feed at the holding center.
The deaths were attributed to poor body conditions combined with pneumonia and severe diarrhea related to salmonella, said Dr. Al Kane, a veterinarian for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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The pneumonia is blamed on dust and lack of moisture, compounded by wide fluctuations in fall temperatures from the 30s at night to high 70s during the day.
“The bacteria salmonella has been isolated from several horses and is contributing to the health problems and increased death loss,” Kane said Wednesday.
“This bacteria is not uncommon in healthy horses and other livestock but can also cause illness or death under these conditions,” he said.
The BLM’s primary concern is to ensure the health and safety of employees who work at the facility and members of the public who visit the facility and could be exposed to the bacteria or carry it home to their animals on their clothing, Kane said.
The animals are being treated with antibiotics to combat the pneumonia but “there are no specific treatments that can cure these complications in horses,” Kane said.
“The horses are being provided with good quality grass hay and fresh water, and most of the animals are slowly recovering.”
The BLM will evaluate conditions at the center in 30 days to determine if the temporary closure should be extended, officials said.