A number of horses have been removed from the path of blazing lava emitting from the Kīlauea volcano on the island of Hawaii.

Hawaii is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands, and Kīlauea is the most active of the five shield volcanoes that comprise the island. Kīlauea began erupting on May 3, sending molten lava into residential communities and forcing more than 1,500 people and a still-undetermined number of horses to evacuate.

“We do not have a complete count … because some owners evacuated their horses on their own without assistance from the government agencies (such as) the County of Hawaii, State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture, (or) the University of Hawaii,” said Jason D. Moniz, DVM, program manager for the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s Animal Disease Control Branch.

However, at least 19 horses were evacuated to the County of Hawaii’s Panaewa Equestrian Center, 10 were taken to Hilo Farm at the University of Hawaii, and two more were moved to the state’s Panaewa Livestock Quarantine facility, he said.

“I am sure there are others that have been moved to private ranches and pastures,” Moniz said. “If I had to guess, 20 to 25 or so more.”

Moniz said Kilauea has been continuously erupting at a remote site since 1983, however the last time an eruption occurred near this current site was in 1955 when it lasted three months. As a result, there is no way of knowing how long the horses will be away from their home pastures.

“We are being told by USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) to expect the eruption to continue for a while,” he said. “Probably the most accurate comment would be that it’s pretty unpredictable how long this current eruption will last.”