HomeOutdoorsAlmost 70 Colorado Wild Horses Die After Contagious Disease Breaks Out at Federal Facility

Almost 70 Colorado Wild Horses Die After Contagious Disease Breaks Out at Federal Facility

by Jonathan Howard
(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

In Colorado, wild horses in a federal facility are dealing with an outbreak of an unknown disease. Efforts are being made to contain it. As of right now, almost 70 horses have died of the strange illness. The disease is highly contagious and appears to be affecting the most vulnerable horses the most. The holding facility is designed to help the wild animals thrive.

Sick Equine in Colorado

  • 67 wild horses in Colorado have died from a mysterious disease
  • The horses are mainly from the Wild Douglas area to a holding facility
  • 457 horses were rounded up last August from Wild Douglas
  • Officials with the Bureau of Land Management are doing tests to figure out the cause and the type of disease that is killing these horses

While the facility holds thousands of horses, the disease has taken the lives of dozens already. The Bureau of Land Management has been coming up with solutions. However, it is not clear what the next steps will be. Isolation and other mitigation factors will likely be used.

“This is a large number of fatalities to have in a relatively short amount of time at a facility like this,” said Steven Hall, with the Bureau of Land Management Colorado. Part of the work being done now is blood tests and autopsies. While work has to be done, this will hopefully show officials what the underlying issue is.

With bird flu across the country, another illness among an animal population is not great. Thankfully, there seem to be some answers. Under voluntary quarantine, the facility can better handle the situation. So, one of the things that they do know about the horses, is where they come from. An area called West Douglas is where most of these affected horses were gathered from.

“These are horses that were removed from a wild setting,” Hall continued. “So their exposure to some of the diseases and issues that domestic horses are better prepared for might be different and that might be part of what the problem is.”

So, let’s hope officials are able to get answers soon. No one wants a bunch of sick or dying horses, that’s for sure.

Wild Horse Roundup in September was Largest in Colorado History

The history of the horse in North America is interesting. Willie Nelson could tell you all about it. While the continent had native equine, they went extinct long before European exploration on the continent. Still, after European horses were introduced to the continent, they thrived. Today, there are roughly 86,000 wild horses in the United States. Most of them live in the West in states like Colorado.

With this disease outbreak, it is worth noting that Colorado had a big roundup of wild horses just last year. In September of 2021, the state had its largest roundup of wild horses ever. 500 to be exact. These horses were collected from the Sand Wash Basin, and officials were able to grab about 55% of the herd.

However, if you go back to August of last year, this is where eyes should open up. The state had rounded up a then-record 457 horses. All of these were taken from the West Douglas area. With so many horses from that area, it is no wonder the disease is spreading like it is.

Maybe there is a way that officials can track where the issue first started. If it took months for these horses to get sick, then it appears that the disease was brought in from somewhere else. These wild horses can have delicate immune systems when exposed to other herds.