AWHC Calls for Moratorium on WY Roundups Amidst Death & Disease Outbreak at Holding Facility

WYOMING (April 1, 2022) —The Bureau of Land Management’s Wheatland Off-Range Corral (WORC) in Wyoming has canceled its April 1 adoption event due to an outbreak of Streptococcus equi, commonly known as “strangles.” A previous adoption event scheduled for March 4 at WORC was also canceled. WORC is currently closed and the animals are quarantined, according to the BLM, until they no longer show signs of illness. 

“We are calling for a moratorium on wild horse roundups in Wyoming, pending an inquiry into disease outbreak and deaths at the BLM’s two holding facilities in the state,” said Suzanne Roy, Executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC). “We are concerned about how crowded conditions and reported staffing shortages are impacting the welfare of the more than 3,000 wild horses incarcerated in BLM holding pens in the state.” 

AWHC, the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, is concerned for the safety and health of all the horses, particularly mares who are foaling at this time of year. AWHC urges the BLM to make public when the outbreak began, how many horses are infected and how many have died.

Strangles is a highly contagious, upper respiratory disease that has up to a 40% mortality rate. The 2,700 wild horses currently at Wheatland, mostly from the record-setting Checkerboard roundup from October 2021 through January 2022, are traumatized and stressed after being separated from families and bands and have no shelter at WORC. 

The privately-owned Wheatland Off-Range Corral opened in January 2021, on 100 acres of Wyoming prairie with a build-out capacity of up to 3500 horses. Records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) earlier this year show that close to 50 horses died at WORC and the Rock Springs, WY facility in less than four months. The horses had been captured in the Great Divide Basin roundup, which took place between October and November of last year. 

A BLM February 2022 report shows that Wyoming’s wild horse and burro holding facilities are nearly full after the mass Checkerboard roundup. According to renowned wildlife photographer Carol Walker, who has documented these horses for years, 2,700 of the horses taken from the Checkerboard lands were hauled to WORC, up to 900 went to Rock Springs, and 200 went to the Cañon City holding pens in Colorado.

“While the BLM’s Wyoming holding corrals are filled nearly to capacity, I’ve been told that the agency is experiencing severe staffing shortages at these facilities. Given this, I do not believe that the agency has any business rounding up and removing over 1,400 more Wyoming wild horses this summer,” Walker said. 

In January, the BLM released a draft Environmental Assessment for a ten-year plan for the North Lander Complex Herd Management Area that involves, among other actions, the permanent removal of 1,400 wild horses from this 375,000-acre area in central Wyoming this year. 

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.