Horses Killed By Cyanide

The first autopsy results on some of the over 500 miscarried thoroughbred fetuses in Kentucky have revealed features characteristic of cyanide poisoning. Cyanide causes victims to gasp for air, and Len Harrison, of the University of Kentucky, says that the foals? bodies and lungs were covered in small lesions, as if they struggled and attempted to breathe in the womb.

Researchers had been investigating a toxic fungus that mimics estrogen and which might have been present in the grass on which the foals? mothers were grazing. But Harrison has announced that a sample of Eastern Tent Caterpillars that live near the pastures has tested positive for Cyanide.

Local cherry trees have a larger than usual crop of the caterpillars this year. Cherry trees produce a cyanide-like chemical that binds to oxygen in the tissues of mammals, causing suffocation. The leaves of the trees were ingested by the caterpillars, which then got into the pastures where horses were grazing. A sudden frost in the middle of an unusually warm April in Kentucky may have caused the caterpillars to migrate from the trees into the pastures.

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