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Tribe, Feds To Round Up Wild Horses

April 24, 1998

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ More than 1,000 wild horses living on tribal and federal lands in eastern Utah will be rounded up to prevent the spread of a deadly virus that has cropped up at a much higher rate than usual.

The Ute tribe and Bureau of Land Management made plans for the roundup after 29 of 200 horses tested this spring on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation were found to have equine infectious anemia.

The infection rate of 15 percent far exceeds the norm, according to state veterinarian Mike Marshall. The typical rate is one in 7,000 and in Utah about two to four domestic horses tested each year have the disease.

``This is certainly the biggest incidence we’ve seen in Utah, probably in the intermountain West,″ Marshall said Thursday. ``There is no treatment for this. Once the animal has this, it’s either going to become very weak or die.″

Spread by mosquitoes and horse flys, the virus causes death in about 30 percent of cases. Horses found to have the virus, which is not transmittable to humans or other animals, will be killed.

Corralling the animals will not be easy.

The roundup will cover an area of 600,000 acres with all kinds of terrain. An estimated 500 of the horses to be rounded up are on 300,000 acres of federal land; another 600 are estimated to live on 330,000 acres of the million-acre reservation.

Karen Corts, wildlife biologist for the Ute tribe’s fish and wildlife service, said the tribe began selling off about 200 wild horses each year about seven years ago to reduce the growing herd.

The wild horses compete with elk, deer, antelope and other wildlife and the tribe wants to protect the wildlife habitat, she said.

``We’ve been slowly picking away at it,″ she said.

The horses are in separate bands and live at elevations of up to 8,000 feet and in terrain ranging from grassland to sagebrush to forest. Helicopters and horseback riders will be used to carry out the roundup.

The cluster of sick horses baffles Marshall.

``I don’t have a reason why this has become entrenched in these horses,″ he said. ``I don’t know how many years it’s been there.″

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