MEDIA UPDATE: Cañon City Mass Wild Horse Casualties Marks Deadliest Disease Outbreak In Recent BLM History

Death toll rises to 119 deaths in 10 days

Cañon City, Colorado (May 3, 2022) – In what is now considered the deadliest wild horse disease outbreak in recent history taking the lives of 119 wild horses in 10 days at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)’s Cañon City holding facility, the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is pressing for more answers particularly related to BLM herd vaccination practices.  

The death toll at the Cañon City holding facility, where 2,500 wild horses captured from western public lands are confined, continues to rise with two more wild horses from the West Douglas Herd Area perishing on Monday (5/2/22).

The spread of the now identified contagion, Equine Influenza Virus (EIV), at the holding facility raises more questions than answers for AWHC, the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization. All 119 of the dead wild horses came from the West Douglas Herd Area and were either unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated against EIV, despite being rounded up in August of 2021 and being in BLM’s care ever since. 

AWHC is urging investigators to determine why the West Douglas wild horses were either partially or completely unvaccinated against EIV nearly 10 months after being rounded up and removed from the range.

"We are deeply concerned over the needless loss of life of more than 100 of our nation’s wild horses and clearly, we have questions over vaccination procedures and standards of care,'' said Scott Wilson, American Wild Horse Campaign board member based in Denver and wildlife photographer. "Right now, our priority is the welfare of affected and at-risk wild horses at the Cañon City holding facility and we are supportive of co-operation among all operational entities with a role in securing solutions to contain this tragic outbreak and prevent further deaths.”

According to a University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine article on the spread of EIV, there is a nearly 100 percent infection rate for a population of unvaccinated horses with no prior exposure to the disease and the virus can mutate quickly. 

AWHC calls on Governor Polis and First Gentleman Reis, to work with BLM and urge a suspension of the roundups in Colorado. Furthermore, AWHC calls on Chair Raúl Grijalva of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, and Chair Joe Neguse of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, to take legislative action to reform the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program and move the agency away from dangerous roundups and toward a more humane, sustainable management strategy. The suspension of roundups is imperative as a roundup is scheduled this summer for the Piceance-East Douglas herd, outside of Meeker, Colo.

More background information here & here.

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.