CAÑON CITY, Colo. (KDVR) — Another 18 wild horses housed at a federal facility in Cañon City have died, bringing the death toll to 85 in just a matter of days.

The deaths are happening at a facility that houses wild horses rounded up during herd management operations. Officials say the deaths are from a highly contagious disease outbreak that began on April 23.

The Cañon City Wild Horse and Burro Facility has been under quarantine while efforts are underway to identify the fatal illness. Symptoms include respiratory issues and problems with the nervous system.

An independent veterinarian and a federal veterinarian are working with the facility to determine what kind of outbreak they are dealing with. Horses that show symptoms are quarantined from the general population.

Cañon City horses gathered during herd management roundup

The horses that became sick and died are part of the same group that was removed back in August 2021 from an area known as West Douglas, southwest of Meeker. There are about 450 West Douglas horses at the Cañon City facility.

The Bureau of Land Management said the horses were gathered for a number of reasons:

  • To protect the health of wild horses in the area due to limited water sources and deteriorating summer habitat as a result of the Oil Springs fire
  • To protect the rangeland and public land from overuse due to excess wild horses
  • To restore a thriving natural ecological balance and multiple-use relationship on public lands consistent with the provisions of Section 1333(b) of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act

The BLM makes some of the gathered horses and burros available for adoption. For more information on the wild horse and burro adoption program, click here.

Timeline: Mysterious wild horse deaths in Colorado

Here is a timeline of the outbreak, according to the Bureau of Land Management:

  • April 23: Outbreak begins
  • April 25: 57 fatalities
  • April 26: 67 fatalities
  • April 27: 85 fatalities