By Rick Sallinger

CAÑON CITY, Colo. (CBS4) – More than five dozen wild horses rounded up are dead after an apparent disease has spread through their holding facilities. They were rounded up by a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) program designed to keep wild horse populations in check.

“It’s extraordinary damage that’s being done to a piece of American heritage here. This is 57 unnecessary deaths,” said Scott Wilson, a board member of the American Wild Horse Campaign and a wildlife photographer.

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A short time later the BLM announced 10 more horses had died in the past day bringing the number to 67 since last Saturday.

In a statement, the BLM said:

“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.”

Some 2,500 horses were in a government holding facility in Canon City. The BLM says the horses were gathered from the West Douglas round up near the Colorado-Utah border in the fall of last year and there are plans to round up thousands more.

(credit: CBS)

“If there weren’t roundups we wouldn’t have the consignment and we wouldn’t have this contagion so the bigger picture this could have been avoided some sort of investigation is required into what on earth is going on,” said Wilson.

What disease killed the horses awaiting adoption is not yet clear.

The BLM said both a federal and independent veterinarian are on the scene trying to diagnose and treat the horses. The round-ups have been the topic of protests in the past.

Rick Sallinger