Flu Outbreak Fells Wild Horses in Holding Facility

Since April, over 140 wild horses have died from influenza exacerbated by a bacterial infection at a Colorado holding facility in Cañon City in what is thought to be the largest disease outbreak in the Bureau of Land Management’s fraught history of wild horse management. Although these horses were removed from the range last summer, it appears many had not been vaccinated or were only partially vaccinated against the flu when the outbreak began.

wild horse
photo by S.M

The crowded conditions in which the BLM often warehouses wild horses can unfortunately facilitate the rapid spread of disease. The Cañon City facility holds up to 3,000 horses. At a Wyoming holding facility designed to house 3,500 wild horses, an outbreak of strangles—a highly contagious disease affecting horses—has claimed more horses’ lives.

AWI worked with federal lawmakers to call attention to this unacceptable situation during a congressional oversight hearing on preventing pandemics and the spread of wildlife-borne disease. Representatives Dina Titus (D-NV) and Steve Cohen (D-TN) wrote to Interior Secretary Debra Haaland calling for an investigation into the conditions at off-range BLM holding facilities and a halt to the constant roundups that shift wild horses into government-run corrals.

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