Pigeon Fever outbreak uncovered as BLM continues closed door policy

For Immediate Release
April 1, 2010

Newborn horses unaccounted for as BLM denies public observation of Calico wild horses and keeps up closed-door, business-as-usual protocol

Fallon, NV (April 1, 2010)—The public questions the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) ability to care for the more than 1800 captured wild horses in Nevada noting a Pigeon Fever outbreak as well as a growing number of newborn horses not accounted for. It appears that only one licensed veterinarian is caring for thousands of horses in both the Palomino and Fallon feedlot style holding facilities. The BLM denies daily access to the facility by experienced humane observers and chooses to work behind closed doors on private land.

Large chest abscesses due to the highly contagious Pigeon Fever bacterium have been observed by the public and reported at the Fallon Holding Facility in Nevada where the Bureau of Land Management is holding, continuing to brand, process and sort over 1800 captured wild horses on private property at taxpayer expense. More than 81 equine deaths and 40 late term abortions have been recorded to date as the over stressed Calico wild horses wait an uncertain fate in feedlot-style holding pens.

The public has discovered that BLM does not count or report foals who are born and die in the pens and at least one newborn has died to date. With babies being born almost daily, advocates want them to be identified and publicly reported. More than 75 foals have now been born in the pens with their captured mothers.

Mustangs born ‘in facility’ don’t exist in BLM records, so the lives and deaths of these phantom foals are only reflected in the eyes of other horses,” states Phantom-stallion series author, Terri Farley, who first noted BLM’s refusal to document foal deaths during a site visit.

In keeping with a marked lack of transparency, the BLM has cancelled this week’s only public entrance period—of an insufficient two hours. Advocates understand the Easter cancellation but question why BLM has denied repeated requests for an alternative public observation period this week, effectively hiding the public’s horses for a 14-day period despite enormous global concern and interest in their well-being.

Advocates continue to request daily site observation and BLM refuses to cooperate, choosing instead to work in secrecy.

According to frequent humane observer, Elyse Gardner, three cases of Pigeon Fever were noted at Fallon on March 21st. By March 28th at least 12 cases were evident. Absessing horses were left with the general population—not isloated or placed in hospital pens to reduce spreading the infection. Several years ago, during a Pigeon Fever outbreak in a BLM holding facility, BLM isolated the horses into two pens so the disease did not spread into the general community. Advocates want these horses to be cared for humanely and given proper care.

In response to the public outcry, the BLM now suggests that the horses had Pigeon Fever when coming off the range in December – February despite BLM statements to network news that “these horses are healthy” and no prior reports of Pigeon Fever. Experts and witnesses throughout the roundup and capture process call BLM’s spin an absurdity and tag Pigeon Fever as a new Fallon phenomenon among these once healthy mustangs.

It is unlikely that the Calico wild horses contracted this disease in the immensity of their wild home. This is the opinion of many equine professionals. In 16 years I have not seen or heard of the illness in a wild population of horses. What we may be seeing is yet another BLM attempt to deflect criticism of their actions. In this case, management decisions have resulted in unthinkable cruelty to the once vibrant mustangs of the Calico Mountains,” stated Ginger Kathrens, Emmy-award winning filmmaker and Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation.

Pigeon fever, sometimes called Dryland Distemper, is highly contagious and infectious, caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis, which can live and multiply in the soil for up to 55 days. Frequently transmitted by flies, the fever is painful, causing lethargy, reluctance to move and, in some cases, horses abscess internally—resulting in serious conditions with up to a 40% fatality rate. Infected horses should be isolated, heat and cold packs applied to abscesses (most often on the chest area) and carefully lanced. There is no vaccine. Antibiotics may be given but do not always help speed recovery and can aggrivate absesses to develop internally. With proper treatment (nearly impossible with one wild horse, let alone dozens) recovery time is from 14-60 days. Given that the bacterium spreads most rapidly in the heat, the public is concerned that the spread of pigeon fever will increase exponentially as the weather warms and BLM fails to isolate infected animals from the larger population.

If the public could view what’s being done to wild horses, the public would stand up and take action,” states Michael Blake, author of Dances with Wolves.

Media Contacts:

Makendra Silverman
Tel: 719-351-8187

Anne Novak
Tel: 415-531-8454


Links of interest:

— CNN Report, Issues with Jane Valez-Mitchell and guests Wendie Malick, Ginger Kathrens and Madeleine Pickens – March 25th http://bit.ly/dvl7NE

— Pigeon Fever http://oregonvma.org/care-health/pigeon-fever

— Horse Management of Stampede to Extinction? Reno Gazette Article 3/21/10 http://bit.ly/92DxBo

— BLM Daily Reports from Calico Roundup/Fallon Holding: http://bit.ly/aSaeVc

— Author Terri Farley on Pigeon Fever and Phantom Foals http://terrifarley.com/blogger.html

— News Story on Calico, rising death toll & skewed numbers from George Knapp (KLAS- Las Vegas): http://bit.ly/9f1DYb

— American Herds Blog http://americanherds.blogspot.com/

— Humane Observer blog http://humaneobserver.blogspot.com/

— San Francisco Chronicle Oped by Barbara Clark’s “ Wild horses – symbol of the West moving east?” http://bit.ly/aRcEfX

— Rebuttal to Salazar’s plan in LA Times: http://bit.ly/a3T6GJ

— Frequently Asked Questions on Wild Horses http://www.wildmustangcoalition.org/id44.html

— Stampede to Oblivion: An Investigate Report from Las Vegas Now http://www.lasvegasnow.com/Global/story.asp?S=11285225

— Unified Moratorium letter and 200 signatories http://bit.ly/6ck87L

— Roundup Schedule (updated February 2010) http://bit.ly/da7Ziy

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