Wild Horse Education

Pigeon Fever (questions from the inbox)

Our inbox is still receiving many inquiries about Pigeon Fever in holding facilities.

On October 4 we reported from the Surprise Complex roundup that wild horses had been seen at the temporary corrals with abscesses that looked like Pigeon Fever.

Below: Litchfield corrals under quarantine

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On October 12 BLM CA sent out a press release that they were temporarily closing the Litchfield corrals pending test results for Pigeon Fever. Wild horses that appeared as if they were infected were isolated in a large corral. Test results are still pending.

A classic symptom of Pigeon Fever is the abscess in the chest area or haunches. As seen in the mare below, these abscesses can burst and drain. (Mare at Palomino Valley Center, north of Reno)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Pigeon Fever is highly contagious, rarely fatal.  Hot, dry weather facilitates this bacterial growth; late summer and fall,  dry/fall months, and the bacteria is spread by flies. Horses, cattle and sheep can transmit this disease.
The most common clinical signs are concurrent external abscess, decreased appetite, fever, lethargy, weight loss, and signs of respiratory disease or abdominal pain. Common treatment in domestic horses includes hot compresses, poultices, lancing and draining, with collection of the infected material for disposal far from other horses.
These are not treatments given easily to a newly captive wild horse. Allowing the disease to run its course, usually about a month after the last case appears, is what usually occurs in wild horse holding facilities. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Above: Wild horses from the Surprise Complex with signs of Pigeon Fever at Palomino Valley Center (PVC) north of Reno.

Many of you have been sending us questions about this issue as wild horses shipped to other facilities from PVC and Jackson Mountain horses were already in residence. Wild horses at PVC with signs of Pigeon Fever seem to occupy every pen, mixed in with all the others.

We sent those questions to the agency. BLM Nevada response below:

“I will assure you that the staff at PVC (and all our facilities) work directly with their Certified Veterinarians who in turn will notify the State Veterinarian when it is required. In this case, PVC is aware of any concerns, health wise, whenever they bring in animals from the range and are currently working directly with their Certified Veterinarian to observe, monitor and treat all the animals that arrive at the facility. Finally, PVC is still somewhat closed, due to COVID restrictions.”

We have asked BLM to provide the public with more specifics about shipping, facility cleaning and test results.

Categories: Wild Horse Education