Animal Research

On an island famous for wild ponies, a dangerous infection is killing horses

On an island famous for wild ponies, a dangerous infection is killing horses

CHINCOTEAGUE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, Va. — In the cold months, this barrier island is a place of austere stillness, its famed wild ponies grazing along brown marshes, their long faces reflecting in waters often skimmed in ice, their seasonally shaggy coats flickering in the chill breeze.

But the offseason calm covers a foreboding anxiety. There is a danger lurking, literally, underfoot. In recent months, seven of the horses have picked up a fungus-like infection in their hoofs and legs, probably by stepping in contaminated wetlands.

Seven have died, including “four that were euthanized Friday at a field hospital set up to treat them on the Chincoteague...

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