Deadly Equine Disease Kills horses in Colorado

CAÑON CITY, Colo. – Wild horses at the Wild Horse facility in Canon City have been infected with an unknown yet highly contagious and sometimes fatal disease. The BLM is working with local, state and federal officials to determine the exact cause of death of nearly 150 horses so far since the outbreak began April 23. An equine influenza is suspected to be the cause of the outbreak. The BLM will continue to post Situation Reports to track mortality rates.

May 9: The May 9 Situation Report is available with an additional 2 fatalities today.

May 8: The May 8 Situation Report is available with an additional 2 fatalities today.

May 7: The May 7 Situation Report is available with an additional 5 fatalities today.

May 6: The May 6 Situation Report is available with an addition 2 fatalities today.

May 5: The May 5 Situation Report is available with an additional 2 fatalities today. Additional culture testing has revealed bacterial pathogen presence along with equine influenza virus. Clinical evaluations and further DNA analysis is being completed to identify the strains of bacteria and virus involved in the outbreak.

May 4: The May 4 Situation Report is available with an additional 4 fatalities today. Wild horse vaccination guidelines are also available at the bottom of this section.

May 3: The May 3 Situation Report is available with an additional 4 fatalities today.

May 2: The May 2 Situation Report is available with an additional 2 fatalities today.

May 1: The May 1 Situation Report is available with an additional 11 fatalities today.

April 30: The April 30 Situation Report is available with an additional 4 fatalities today, bringing total deaths up to 106 horses.

April 29: The April 29 Situation Report is available with an additional 8 fatalities recorded today. An error occurred in the original count of fatalities and has been corrected in the numbers below; all totals have decreased by one.

April 28: The total number of fatalities has increased to 94. The BLM’s most recent April 28 Press Release is available. The veterinarian report and addendum are available for review. The April 28 Situation Report is also available.

April 27: The total number of fatalities has increased to 84.

April 26: The total number of fatalities has increased to 66.

April 25: A total of 56 horses have died. The BLM and its partners are continuing to monitor horses and identify the illness.

Diagnostic/Laboratory Results:
To date: pneumonia as described in PDF below.
initial EHV-1 PCR testing has been negative
additional respiratory PCR testing – pending
bacterial cultures – pending

Other important details to note:

  • this problem appeared to start shortly (5-10 days) after an initial group of about 50 of these horses received their first vaccinations and appeared initially to start in and be most severe in this same group of horses
  • the West Douglas horses were gathered and removed form the range after a large wildfire occurred in the area where they lived, this fire drove them into surrounding areas to escape the fire

Information taken from the Preliminary Site Visit / Outbreak Investigation Report dated 4/26 and updated 4/28/2022. Read the entire report here: https://www.blm.gov/sites/blm.gov/files/docs/2022-04/Canon%20City%20site%20visit_mortalityinvestigation4_26_22.pdf

The facility is now under a voluntary quarantine. There are currently 2,550 horses at Canon City. Horses gathered from the West Douglas area in fall 2021 are the most impacted.  

“We are working with local, state and federal officials to determine what is impacting horses in the facility and how we can respond as effectively as possible,” said Stephen Leonard, BLM Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Program Manager.

BLM Colorado will post additional information and updates on this outbreak at Colorado – Herd Management Areas | Bureau of Land Management (blm.gov)

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