FOX31 will update this story with the daily number of wild horses that have died since a deadly disease outbreak at a federal holding facility.

CAÑON CITY, Colo. (KDVR) — The Bureau of Land Management said an equine influenza virus is likely to blame for the deaths of dozens of wild horses at a Colorado facility.

The results came from positive laboratory tests at two different facilities.

The deaths are happening at a federal facility in Cañon City that houses wild horses rounded up during herd management operations. Officials say the deaths are from a highly contagious disease outbreak that began on April 23.

“The Bureau of Land Management will review operations at the Cañon City facility to prevent future outbreaks like this from occurring,” BLM Colorado Acting Associate State Director Ben Gruber said. “This tragic outcome was influenced by a population of horses that may have been particularly vulnerable given their time in the West Douglas area and their exposure to last year’s wildfire that prompted their emergency gather.”

The Cañon City Wild Horse and Burro Facility has been under quarantine since efforts began to identify the fatal illness. Symptoms include respiratory issues and problems with the nervous system.

An independent veterinarian and a federal veterinarian have been working with the facility to determine what kind of outbreak they were dealing with. Horses that show symptoms are quarantined from the general population.

Cañon City horses gathered during herd management roundup

The horses that became sick and died are part of the same group that was removed back in August 2021 from an area known as West Douglas, southwest of Meeker. There are about 450 West Douglas horses at the Cañon City facility.

The Bureau of Land Management said the horses were gathered for a number of reasons:

  • To protect the health of wild horses in the area due to limited water sources and deteriorating summer habitat as a result of the Oil Springs fire
  • To protect the rangeland and public land from overuse due to excess wild horses
  • To restore a thriving natural ecological balance and multiple-use relationship on public lands consistent with the provisions of Section 1333(b) of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act

The BLM makes some of the gathered horses and burros available for adoption. For more information on the wild horse and burro adoption program, click here.