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Beset by "swamp cancer," ponies of Chincoteague NWR may be helped by new vaccine

CHINCOTEAGUE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, Va. — More than three years ago, members of the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company noticed unusual lesions on the legs of one of the shaggy, stocky wild ponies that have made this barrier island a year-round tourist destination.

The bright coral wound was treated and it seemed to be healing, but in a little over a week the mare became too weak to stand and had to be euthanized. Seven more ponies followed in the coming years — the majority during the very wet 2018 — all succumbing to a deadly disease called swamp cancer.

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