Most people probably don’t even know what a blister beetle is, but this unseen nightmare is being blamed for the deaths of 14 horses in Wisconsin — with scores more having been sickened. The toxic beetles, which can irritate the linings of the stomach and intestines, can get crushed during hay harvest, and hay tainted by these beetles is believed to have been fed to the animals.
According to reports from The Associated Press, hay fields totaling more than 250 acres at a property known as Red Ridge Riding Stable were left unusable after summer flooding, so the owners purchased six semi-tractor trailer loads of hay and alfalfa from farms in South Dakota and Wyoming.
There are roughly 110 horses on the property, including Belgians, Mustangs, Appaloosas, and Percherons. The infected horses showed symptoms of colic, weight loss, pain in the stomach, and inability to stand.
The Casper Star Tribune says that it’s likely Red Ridge owners Cindy Kanarowski-Peterson and Lyle Peterson will be hiring an attorney and weighing whether to file a lawsuit.
Experts have said that, although there are hundreds of species of blister beetles in the U.S., it’s uncommon to find them in hay and alfalfa.
Kanarowski-Peterson has launched a Go Fund Me campaign with a goal of $50,000 to help cover the costs of buying new hay and paying for veterinarian bills.
“Going forward our winter hay is a total loss and we are left with a barn full of poisonous hay. Our entire hay budget is exhausted with this unplanned tragedy and excessive vet bills,” she said. “We need some help to keep the remaining horse family fed. We are devastated both emotionally with the loss of our loved ones as well as financially.”