Gas Leak a Possible Cause of 27 Horse Deaths

A natural gas leak might have caused the deaths of 27 ranch horses in southern Idaho near Malta, according to an online report from Twin Falls’ Times-News.

A spokeswoman for Northwest Pipeline said company personnel found 16 dead horses while performing routine checks on the 24-inch underground pipeline on Aug. 3. Michele Swaner “said the company immediately notified the Cassia County Sheriff's Office and the owner of the land, Benjamin Bartlett,” the Times-News reported.

Eleven more horses were found dead on the premises in subsequent days.

Wallace Ward, DVM, of Burley Veterinary Hospital, examined the dead horses on Wednesday and told the paper they “were found about 300 to 400 yards from what he and ranch manager Cameron Tuckett suspected was a leak in Northwest's underground pipeline.”

Swaner said the gas company was notified of a possible leak on Wednesday afternoon, the leak was confirmed Thursday afternoon, and the damaged pipeline was then shut down and isolated.

It will be difficult to determine what caused the deaths, said Ward, because the horses had been dead for five days before he tested the carcasses. The company said it’s too early to draw a connection between the deaths and the gas leak.

Bartlett disputed the gas company’s claim that it called him Friday about the deaths and said Tuckett discovered the animals Monday. He told the paper Northwest “is intentionally trying to conceal the damage caused by the gas leak.”

According to the police report, the horses were valued at $130,000, but the owners would not estimate the amount of their loss to the paper.

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About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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