A second Chincoteague pony has died from a fungal infection known as “swamp cancer,” according to the fire department that owns and cares for the wild animals on the Virginia island.
“This baby just couldn’t kick it and developed some ligament and tendon issues related to this disease,” a spokeswoman for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department wrote on Facebook on Monday, saying the pony, Rain Dancer, was the second to die this fall. Another pony, Essie, died in October. Five other ponies were also infected, Denise Bowden reported on Facebook.
Despite the name, swamp cancer is in fact a water mold infection also called pythiosis. The disease causes tumorlike skin masses and lesions, and develops from exposure to infested environments. It requires long-term, extensive medical treatment.
“Our vet has been up here every other day and of course our great team of cowboys have basically put their lives on hold attending to these ponies,” said the Facebook post.
The fire department auctions off around 50 foals every summer during Pony Penning Week, a seven-day celebration of Chincoteague’s pony heritage.