DENVER (KDVR) – The Bureau of Land Management’s relocation efforts scheduled for this coming September has been pushed up due to a rise in malnutrition for several hundred horses currently living in the Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area.

According to officials at the White River Office, starting June 16, malnourished horses in the herd of 1,385 will begin being rounded up so that they can be relocated to the BLM’s wild horse holding facility in Utah. Once they are gathered, they will be herded across the state starting on July 15. According to the Bureau’s own estimates, the herd’s “carrying capacity” sits between 135 and 235 horses.

“We saw some horses really suffering in March and April,” Northwest District Manager Elijah Waters with BLM Colorado said.

Once gathered, horseback riders with the assistance of helicopters overhead will begin the long trek to Utah.

“We were getting quite a bit of feedback from the public to do something, and we felt like the best option was to gather as soon as we could for the horses in poor condition and for the horses that will remain and need forage before going into next winter,” Waters explained.

The BLM held a virtual meeting on Wednesday, where some leaders from local animal activism groups posed questions connected to the large horse die-off in Cañon City that stretched from April into May of this year. The final tally of horses that died in Cañon City from the spreading of this virus rose to 142 horses by mid-May.

“Extensive misinformation about wild horses and burros is being conveyed by the Bureau of Land Management and other government agencies,” Wild Horse and Burro Campaign Director for In Defense of Animals Ginger Fedak said.

However, according to the BLM and in accordance with the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy, they’ve designed the horse drive with the safety of the animals in mind first and foremost.

When the horses arrive in Utah, they will be adopted, sold, or will receive long-term care in off-range pastures near the facility.