115 Wild Horses Die in Outbreak at the Canon City Horse Facility

115 Wild Horses Die in  Outbreak at the Canon City Horse Facility

Mattie Baker, Reporter

Viruses can be very frightening at times, especially when they are new and mysterious to the human race. On the 23rd of April, a new virus hit the BLM wild horse facility in Canon City, Colorado, resulting in the death of nine horses. Since then, 115 horses have been reported dead due to this new virus causing the facility to be quarantined in order to prevent the further spread of the disease. According to BLM agents and veterinarians, this unknown respiratory disease is being caused by the equine influenza, which is unrelated to the current bird flu outbreak.

In order to combat this highly contagious and fatal disease the facility will remain quarantined “as long as necessary,” reported the BLM spokesperson, Steven Hall, to New York Times.

“This is the first situation that I’m aware of that so many horses died so quickly and so suddenly,” said Scott Beckstead, who is the director of campaigns for the Center of a Humane Economy.

The BLM has found that most of the horses affected by the virus came from the West Douglass Herd Area. Although the horses were tested for various diseases and quarantined for a short-time before being introduced to the other horses at the facility, BLM agents are wondering if there is a connection between the origin of the virus and which horses are contracting it.

Dave Phillips, a Colorado Journalist, reported that this is not the first time that the BLM has had to close down a wild horse facility due to the outbreak of a virus. “It’s the second time in recent weeks that the bureau had to shut down a facility because of a widespread illness among horses. In late March, a facility in Wyoming was closed and an adoption event for wild horses was postponed because some animals developed Streptococcus equi, a bacterial infection similar to strep throat.”

Many have blamed these recent virus outbreaks among the wild horses as a result of the overpopulated wild horse population. According to the BLM, “the wild horse population is more than three times the size of what the land can sustain,” which is why the health of many of the wild horses have been so poor and plagued by disease. In order to combat this overpopulation, BLM rounds up thousands of wild horses annually and attempts to adopt them out to people. However, many people don’t want to buy an untrained mustang, which results in a surplus of horses in a holding system such as the one in Canon City that is home to around 2,550 horses.

So, even though few people are interested in buying wild horses, hopefully with a little luck BLM will be able to overcome this new virus and start reducing the wild horse population in order to improve the health of the horses as there are over 86,000 horses alone in the West.