I.G.H.A. / HorseAid's Bureau of Land Management News
By Martha Mendoza (AP National Writer)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal investigators are heading to Elm Creek, Neb., this week to try to figure out why dozens of captured wild horses and burros awaiting adoption are dying.
"It's just unacceptable to me that we have the stewardship of these horses, and then we're letting them die,'' said Pat Shea, who was sworn in as director of the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management on Oct. 2.
Two weeks ago, during a severe snowstorm, 17 burros and a horse suffocated under a snowdrift. Another 14 horses have died during the past month from strangles, a bacterial respiratory infection with coldlike symptoms.
The BLM operates a holding facility in Elm Creek as a rest stop for about 5,000 wild horses and burros captured in the West each year and trucked to Eastern and Southern states for adoption.
The deaths come just four months after a team of veterinarians reported that 70 percent of the horses at the facility showed some sign of strangles.
The team made a series of recommendations: Haul manure away more often; build sick pens and segregate horses with contagious illnesses; spread hay out on the ground so horses don't cluster at a feeder while they eat; call veterinarians when animals are sick; examine animals that die; and keep health records on all the animals.
"If those recommendations had been taken, it looks as if this would not have happened,'' said Shea.
An internal BLM report shows there are 793 horses and burros at the facility, 193 more than it was designed to hold. Of those, more than 60 animals are sick; 32 have died, according to the report.
Shea said his special assistant, Henri Bisson, and a veterinarian were flying to Nebraska on Tuesday and will evaluate management of the facility.
"If what they find is not to our liking we will make some changes,'' said Shea.
Staff at the facility did not return calls Tuesday. A local veterinarian, Dr. Barry Littell, said: "They're doing the best they can.''
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