Wild Horses

A young, wild horse that slipped away from a Bureau of Land Management roundup trots across the prairie in September 2014 in Sweetwater County.

Federal officials on Wednesday suspended wild horse adoptions in Wheatland until further notice, as a contagious bacterial infection continues to spread through the facility.

The outbreak of strangles, a disease that causes horses’ lymph nodes to swell and form abscesses, had as of May 6 killed 11 horses that were removed from Wyoming rangelands by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and being held in Wheatland.

“We look forward to holding adoptions again in Wheatland,” Kevin Christensen, high plains district manager for the BLM, said in a statement. “However, our priority is the health of the animals at the facility. Adoption events will remain paused until the horses are fully recovered and we are confident that animals can be shipped without risk of transmission.”

The agency previously canceled adoption events in March, April and early May as it worked to limit the spread of the disease. By then, roughly half of the horses at the facility had shown symptoms.

Wild horse advocacy groups opposed to rangeland gathers have pointed to Wheatland’s strangles outbreak and the simultaneous outbreak of deadlier equine influenza at a Colorado facility as examples of management practices in need of reform.

“This is a serious warning bell,” Grace Kuhn, communications director for the American Wild Horse Campaign, said in email to the Star-Tribune, “that should make us take a look at this whole holding system for wild horses, put a pause on roundups, and not bring any more mustangs into these off-range corrals that are being plagued by disease outbreaks.”

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Originally published on trib.com, part of the TownNews Content Exchange.

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