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Wild horses die of dehydration

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You can lead a horse to water, but what happens when that water dries up?

In Millard County, a usually reliable spring dried up, causing 16 wild horses to die of dehydration and related causes.

Monday night, the Millard County Sheriff's Office reported to the Bureau of Land Management there were seven dead horses and several others in bad shape near Needle Point Spring in southwestern Millard County.

Within hours, 8,000 gallons of water from a nearby ranch were hauled to the spring and dumped into the overflow pond. The next morning, the water had disappeared and five more horses had died.

These horses may have died as a result of water intoxication, according to the BLM. When a horse is badly dehydrated and drinks too much water too fast, its brain may swell and kill it. The water the horses didn't drink most likely evaporated or seeped into the ground.

BLM Wild Horse Specialist Gale Bennett supervised the burying of the animals at a site near where they died, and arranged for water troughs to be rented from a nearby ranch. Another 8,000 gallons of water were brought in to fill the troughs Tuesday afternoon.

Wednesday afternoon, another four horses were found dead, bringing the total to 16. Twenty or 25 horses were seen grazing in the vicinity of the water troughs, and Bennett said some still looked weak.

Friday morning, the horses were looking good, according to BLM Information Officer Anne Stanworth. She said the horses were running in to drink from the troughs, although they were initially a little leery of the strange receptacles.

The BLM considered bringing a veterinarian in to examine the animals but decided instead to monitor them because gathering them for examination would cause additional stress. Stanworth said it "looks like that was the right decision," and he expects the horses to fully recover.

Utah has nearly 3,700 wild horses spread throughout 25 herd management areas. The horses around Needle Point Spring are part of the Sulphur herd that inhabits the Sulphur Herd Management Area.

E-MAIL: lculler@desnews.com