Wild horses living in a portion of the Cañon City off-range holding corrals are seen from a distance in this photo taken in June 2021. Photo by Meg Frederick.
A total of 145 wild horses died at the Bureau of Land Management's crowded Cañon City (Colo.) corrals died from a preventable equine flu in an outbreak that started April 23. A review has found 13 violations of BLM policy -- including failing to vaccinate the affected wild horses, which arrived at the corrals during summer 2021.
There were 2,550 wild horses living in the off-ranging holding corrals when the outbreak began at the East Cañon City Prison Complex, according to BLM.
Cañon City has faced allegations of mistreatment in recent months, including of underweight horses standing in mud and muck. BLM was also apparently concerned enough about the possibility of horses that arrived last July and August carrying equine infectious anemia, also called swamp fever, it segregated them, pending testing.
Because inmates care for and train horses for adoption there, the Cañon City corrals remain largely out of the public eye.
The alarming number of deaths underscored Return to Freedom’s concerns about conditions in off-range holding. As of April, the BLM was warehousing 19,206 captured wild horses and burros in corrals and another 38,603 on leased or government pastures.
The BLM intends to dramatically add to those numbers during this fiscal year. It’s announced plans to remove a record 19,000 wild horses and burros from their home ranges (by comparison, it plans to treat just 2,300 with proven, safe and humane fertility control that could reduce the frequency and size of removals and end them as the agency’s primary management tool).
We’ve repeatedly said that this aggressive removal plan is all the more irresponsible because BLM lacks the infrastructure, staff and contracts to run its program -- much less properly protect and care for captured wild horses and burros.
Please join us in urging Congress to take demand that steps are taken to reduce the chances of further tragedy in holding facilities by moving wild horses and burros to more natural, cost-effective pastures as quickly as possible and by implementing a fertility control program that can lead to on-range management and the closure of off-range holding.