The number of wild horses that have died during a respiratory disease outbreak at the Bureau of Land Management’s off-range holding corrals in Cañon City has climbed to 143 following another death announced on Friday.
A total of 127 wild horses died between April 23 and May 4; 16 have died since.
Ongoing laboratory tests have supported a clinical assessment that the disease includes the equine influenza virus and bacterial pathogens common in the environment and among horses, according to reports posted on the BLM’s website.
The wild horses that have died were among the 457 captured from late July to early August of 2021 in a helicopter roundup on the West Douglas Herd Management Area in Western Colorado, near the Utah border.
At the time the outbreak began, there were about 2,550 wild horses being warehoused in the corrals at the Colorado Department of Corrections in Cañon City, according to the BLM.
As of Wednesday, according to the reports, respiratory signs including fever, dullness, coughing and nasal discharge had fallen from more than 90% of the West Douglas wild horses and 50% among other horses in the corrals to 10% among the West Douglas horses and 5% among other horses there.
On Thursday, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued a statement saying that he was “deeply concerned about the tragic death of these iconic animals.”
“I’ve directed our Department of Agriculture and the state veterinarian to re-engage with the Bureau of Land Management to review the situation and evaluate what can be done to avoid this situation in the future. We have long advocated for the health, safety, and wellbeing of Colorado’s wild horses, and will continue to do so as we seek a humane future for our mustangs,” Polis said.
Return to Freedom is calling for Congress to demand improved care and biosecurity for captured wild horses and burros — and for a long-overdue shift away from the mismanagement putting thousands of federally protected wild horses and burros into overcrowded off-range holding facilities.
Congress has called for wild horses and burros to be relocated to lower-cost and more natural pastures, but, as of April, the BLM was warehousing 19,206 wild horses and burros in large corral facilities like Cañon City at a daily cost to taxpayers of $6.19 per horse, however.
By comparison, it costs taxpayers $2.17 per horse, per day, to care for an additional 39,736 wild horses on leased or government pastureland.