Avalanche in Skagafjörður Leaves 15 Horses Dead

An avalanche in Skagafjörður, near the town of Hofsós in North Iceland, has left 15 horses dead.

The avalanche occurred around 1pm on December 26. The Search and Rescue team “Grettir” was called to the scene, but all horses were found dead upon their arrival.

Residents and farms of nearby Unadalur are reported as being safe from the avalanche, with no further reported damage to property or livestock.

Rescue teams in Iceland have been very busy over the holiday season, with many roads left impassable in the winter weather, leaving many travelers stranded as well.

150 Cattle Taken by Authorities in Abuse Case

icelandic cows

150 cattle have been removed from a farm in Borgarfjörður by the authorities on November 14 and 15. After repeated demands by authorities that their owner improve their conditions, authorities have finally been forced to confiscate the cattle after it became clear the farmer in question would not cooperate.

Both police officers and representatives from MAST, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority, were at the scene, reports RÚV.

Read more: Further Animal Abuse in Borgarfjörður

The owner in question is said to have a long history of mistreating his animals. Sheep and horses have been previously taken from the farmer to be slaughtered, as they were too maltreated to be rescued.

Some cattle confiscated in the latest episode will likewise be slaughtered, but many of the cows will be allowed to live and given new homes.

Ellen Ruth Ingimundsdóttir, district veterinarian for Southwest Iceland, stated that such cases are very difficult for all involved: “It’s a long and difficult story. We decided that it was no longer possible to give deadlines that weren’t met […] We don’t take animals from people just because we want to. We need to follow the law and we need to do this in consultation with locals so that it doesn’t hurt the animals. That’s why it has also taken a long time.”

Ellen additionally thanked those farmers who will be receiving the remaining cows, which are headed to barns with better pasture and conditions.


Marked Over 160 “Anthrax Graves” Around Iceland

An icelandic horse at sunset

Veterinarian Sigurður Sigurðarson and his wife Ólöf Erla Halldórsdóttir have been travelling around Iceland since 2004 on a mission to mark the graves of animals who died of anthrax, Bændablaðið reports. The bacteria that causes anthrax, which can be fatal to both animals and humans, can survive for hundreds of years underground. The couple wants to ensure locals and passers-by are aware of the risks of tampering with the soil covering these graves, which can bring the dangerous bacteria back to the surface.

“A few times I thought I had finished the project, but then I got information about farms and places that had been forgotten,” Sigurður stated. He has marked over 160 graves in 130 locations. The markings are white, cylindrical posts marked with the letter “A,” for anthrax. “A marking at these locations is a reminder to show caution and be alert if it’s necessary to disturb the soil at that location.”

Anthrax Bacterium Can Survive Dormant Indefinitely

Though the bacterium that causes anthrax poses little threat to animals and humans while underground, it can remain active for hundreds of years. “The bacterium that causes anthrax can live dormant in the soil almost indefinitely, but seems to pose little risk on the surface near graves after a few weeks, likely due to the effects of sunlight and erosion,” Sigurður explains. “That is why it’s important to know where danger lies and mark it, to caution against digging, which could bring the infectious agent up to the surface.”

The most recent case of anthrax in Iceland was in 2004, when sea erosion exposed a ridge where a large farm animal had been buried in 1874, 130 years earlier. Soil from the ridge was carried onto the pastureland of four horses, and three died suddenly. The fourth became ill and had to be put down.

Sigurður and Ólöf are now travelling around the country to check on the markings they have placed in previous years, and hopefully complete the project for good. They encourage locals with any information about past anthrax cases and associated graves to get in touch. They also hope landowners will lend a helping hand when it comes to any maintenance that may be necessary to keep the markings in good shape. Sigurður is compiling a full report on the project that will be submitted to the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST).

Sigurður and Ólöf have carried out the project on a volunteer basis, though they have had help from sponsors around the country. Sigurður expressed his thanks to all of the project’s supporters, including former Minister of Agriculture Guðni Ágústsson.