57 Federally-Protected Wild Horses Dead at Colorado Taxpayer-Funded Holding Facility

(April 29, 2022) Update: The BLM has notified the public that the death told has reached 95 wild horses since Saturday, April 23. 

Cañon City, Colorado (April 26, 2022) — Late Monday, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Wild Horse Facility in Cañon City, Colorado announced that 57 federally-protected wild horses have perished since April 23 after being infected with an unknown, yet highly contagious disease. This is the second government holding facility in recent weeks that has closed due to disease outbreaks resulting from confinement of the wild animals. 

According to the BLM, the Cañon City facility – where 2,500 wild horses are confined – is under investigation by the Colorado State Veterinary office. The fatalities have primarily affected wild horses captured from the West Douglas Herd Area (HA) in late summer of 2021. At the time, the BLM noted that West Douglas horses captured near the Utah state line were being segregated from other horses at Canyon City pending testing for Equine Infectious Anemia, a highly infectious disease that had been confirmed in horses in nearby Uintah County, Utah. 

“Disease outbreaks and deaths are the direct result of the BLM's inhumane mass roundups. Now, more than 60,000 wild horses and burros are in overcrowded dirt holding pens,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization. “The agency is planning to round up and remove another 19,000 wild horses and burros from public lands this year. We can expect to see more suffering and death if BLM continues down this dangerous and destructive path.”

According to AWHC, deaths from disease outbreaks are not the only fatalities that captured wild horses experience while incarcerated in government holding facilities. The organization has obtained records through the Freedom of Information Act that document an alarming number of deaths of wild horses at multiple BLM holding facilities within weeks or months after roundup operations end. (Documentation available upon request.)

The Cañon City facility also houses wild horses from the popular Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area (HMA) who were captured in a roundup that sparked massive public outrage and intervention from Governor Jared Polis, First Gentleman Marlon Reis and Congressman Joe Neguse. The BLM said that the Sand Wash horses are separated by 300-yards from the areas in the holding corrals that have been impacted by the recent disease outbreak

The BLM currently warehouses 59,749 wild horses and 862 wild burros in off-range holding facilities and has plans to capture and remove 19,000 more wild horses and burros from public lands this fiscal year. The agency now spends nearly 75% of its annual operating budget on roundups to remove wild horses and burros from the wild while spending less than 1% of its budget to humanely manage the animals on the range through the use of proven fertility control, as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.

AWHC calls on Governor Polis, the First Gentleman, and state and federal policymakers in Colorado to push Congress for greater oversight of the BLM and the management of wild horses and burros.

About the American Wild Horse Campaign

The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.