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Equine influenza behind outbreak that's killed 95 wild horses corralled in Colorado, BLM says

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BLM
The BLM’s wild horse and burro holding facility at the Colorado Department of Corrections in Canon City.

News brief

A highly contagious disease is killing wild horses that are being held at a federal facility in Canon City, Colorado.

At last count, 95 horses have died, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

The agency announced on Thursday that an equine influenza virus probably caused the respiratory disease outbreak that began on April 23.

The Canon City facility southwest of Colorado Springs, which is currently holding roughly 2,500 horses, has been under a voluntary quarantine since Monday. Horses rounded up last fall in the West Douglas area near the Utah border have been the hardest hit.

“The Bureau of Land Management will review operations at the Canon City facility to prevent future outbreaks like this from occurring,” BLM Colorado Acting Associate State Director Ben Gruber said in a statement. “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.”

Wild horse advocates say the deaths result from “inhumane” roundups.

“Disease outbreaks and deaths are the direct result of the BLM's inhumane mass roundups. Now, more than 60,000 wild horses and burros are in overcrowded dirt holding pens,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign. She predicts more deaths unless the BLM changes course.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.