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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT NEWS RELEASE
 
Release Date: 12/14/12
Contacts: Lauren Gapinski, (303) 236-0480    

Preliminary Lab Results Suggest Toxic Weeds Caused the of Deaths of 19 Horses at BLM’s Canon City WHIP Facility (12-14-12)


 
Lakewood, Colo. – The ingestion of whorled milkweed, a highly-toxic plant, is suspected to have caused the deaths of 19 horses early last week at the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse Inmate Program (WHIP) facility in Canon City, according to preliminary lab results issued from the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at Colorado State University.

While the final lab results are still pending, veterinarians have ruled out any infectious diseases as a possible cause of death.  Tests for rabies, the equine herpes virus and the West Nile virus came back negative. All of the deaths occurred in one pen, despite close contact between the horses and those in neighboring pens.

Currently, nine of the horses also in the same pen with similar symptoms are either fully recovered or recovering quickly. As a precaution, animals from pens immediately adjacent to the affected pen will remain at the facility until the final lab results are received, or for an additional three weeks.

With the approval of state animal health authorities, the BLM WHIP facility will resume operations early next week when they begin to ship wild horses and burros that were adopted. These animals were geographically isolated from the affected pen and have been examined by a veterinarian and deemed healthy.

The horses at the Canon City facility are fed approximately 25 tons of hay daily. The hay arrives in 1,000 – 2,000 pound bales. This incident suggests that in some cases only small amounts of milkweed need to be consumed to severely affect a group of horses. In order to help prevent a similar occurrence in the future, samples of the whorled milkweed will be kept on hand to educate both staff and feed crews. Hay vendors will also be advised that hay will not be accepted from suspect areas, such as the edges of fields, along roads and continually wet areas.
 
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land – the most of any Federal agency.  This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska.  The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation.  In Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, recreational and other activities on BLM-managed land contributed more than $130 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than 600,000 American jobs.  The Bureau is also one of a handful of agencies that collects more revenue than it spends.  In FY 2012, nearly $5.7 billion will be generated on lands managed by the BLM, which operates on a $1.1 billion budget.  The BLM's multiple-use mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.  The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources on public lands.



The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to manage and conserve the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under our mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield. In Fiscal Year 2013, the BLM generated $4.7 billion in receipts from public lands.
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Last updated: 12-14-2012