Mystery Illness Kills More Than 80 Wild Horses at Colorado Federal Facility

Horses dying
More than 60 horses have died at a federal facility.Bureau of Land Management

The wild horse compound in Colorado is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.

A mysterious and highly contagious disease has killed 85 wild horses at a federal holding facility overseen by the Bureau of Land Management in Colorado, officials said.

The Cañon City facility, about 115 miles south of Denver, is now under voluntary quarantine because of the outbreak, the BLM said in a statement. The holding site contains some 2,550 wild horses rounded up from neighboring rangelands.

The disease began spreading April 23 and the agency said it is working with local, state and federal officials to determine its cause. Horses herded from the West Douglas area last year have been hardest hit, the BLM said.

"It's upsetting to BLM and to employees," spokesperson Steven Hall told KUSA-TV. "It's taking a great toll on them. This isn't where anybody wants to be in terms of managing wild horses."

“We’re doing everything that we can from a veterinary standpoint," Hall said. The staff is "doing what we can to isolate the horses and we’ve voluntarily quarantined the entire facility.”

The BLM routinely rounds up wild horses, a controversial practice animal advocates call inhumane, saying the horses are forced from their natural habitats and held in corrals under poor living conditions.

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