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  • Staci-lee Sherwood

And just like that wild horse death toll stops, as BLM continues false claims about Canon City

Updated: Aug 13


By Staci-lee Sherwood



A more apropos title for this piece might be the lying liars and the lies they tell. On June 15, 2022 the Bureau of Land MISmanagment (BLM) hosted what is best described as a state sponsored propaganda zoom event. Elijah Waters, Steve Hill and Alan Bitter were too cowardly to answer any real questions while Stephanie Connolly played the weak leader. No one was surprised when they preferred their pre scripted excuses and softball platitudes to the truth.



The BLM is notorious for abusing wild horses and burros, and probably other species. They’ve been caught on film for decades. Despite public outrage nothing ever changes but the figurehead on top. The connection between animal abusers and human abusers/child abusers is as high as 90-95%. With stats like that and mounting evidence, this crumbling tower of fraud should come tumbling down but their support system remains unflinching.



Lying liars and the lies they tell

Any BLM employee that claims their agency does not sell horses to slaughter would have to have the intellect of a doorknob. It’s been well known for decades that not only do BLM employees take an active role as do many of those cowboys they employ. Perhaps Chris Maestas is far enough down the food chain that the Colorado officials feel insulated by his obvious lies.



Someone should tell Chris Maestas that putting a lie in writing is a foolish act and possibly a criminal one, after all he represents the government. Former Department of Interior chief Ken Salazar, who is from Colorado and still has ties there with government officials, had a cozy well known friendship with known kill buyer Tom Davis. Now Salazar is the Ambassador to Mexico. Interesting choice considering so many wild horses end up in Mexican slaughterhouses. Could this be the real reason he’s there? Does he have a side hustle involving the transport and cover up of protected wild horses going to slaughter? The trip down from Canon City is very much a possibility.



Millionaire Dave Cattoor was caught shooting wild horses and selling them for slaughter in 1992. After paying a laughable $500.00 fine he was back at work earning over $20,000,000 from the BLM for rounding up horses. To say the BLM doesn’t know who they have been in business with for 30 years would be a level of stupid there are no words for. Therefore it’s a blatant lie what Maestas says here and someone should hold him accountable for lying.



Not untouchables

Many a crook sailed through life with the false assumption their crimes would go unnoticed and unpunished. Mob boss Al Capone was a notorious criminal who murdered, either directly or by instructing others, countless people. Who knows the true depths of crimes his enterprise committed. He thought himself untouchable until the IRS came calling and prison became his new home. Capone eventually died from venereal disease. Those that work at the BLM and think of themselves as untouchable might want to look at history. It doesn’t always favor the criminal.



What the veterinarians & labs had to say

In an email response from state veterinarian Dr. Maggie Baldwin dated June 28, 2022 to Olga Robak (Director of Communications & Public Awareness, Colorado Dept of Ag) only two questions were answered:


Q: Did you have first hand knowledge of where the horse carcasses went? A: I did not see the mortalities first-hand, but CDA Veterinarian Dr. Ken Newens, who reviewed the biosecurity measures in place, did observe deceased horses while on premises. Some carcasses in the early set of mortalities were sent to the CSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for testing. The remainder of the carcasses were disposed of at a landfill. CDA does not require BLM to share records of exact disposal location, as this case falls outside of the State’s jurisdiction.” Why weren’t all the horses necropsied? ‘Some’ is not enough to definitively confirm a diagnosis.



Below is the Biosecurity form I was sent via a CORA request. As you can see some of it is redacted which is standard procedure according to the Colorado Livestock Act as per Robak.



Why would they need to hide the number of horses housed there?

Why hide which horses are affected, especially when it was widely reported by the BLM this only affected horses rounded up from Piceance West Douglas herd…unless those were not the horses affected and someone lied?

Why hide how many workers?


Q: What is CDA’s involvement in the investigation following the mortality event? A: “CDA is part of the panel reviewing the events of the mortality event at the Cañon City Wild Horse and Burro Facility. Dr. Peter Rolfe, DMV, is representing CDA. Additional panel representatives include the Colorado Dept. of Corrections Office of the Inspector General, Colorado Correctional Industries, and Bureau of Land Management. The Agencies are working to release a report about their findings.”



Since Dr. Ken Newens is the field vet and was on the premises, I wanted to speak with him directly about what he saw. The public has a right to know how many horses he saw at the time he was there, their overall condition, if they had access to food and clean water and where / how were the dead horses disposed of? I did speak with him briefly on July 22, 2022 on his cell but he stated “Since day one we were told not to speak with the press.” When pressed at a later date he told Robak that he observed about 400 horses in the affected area and about 2000 at the facility. This number contradicts what some advocates say they observed.


If the BLM has nothing to hide why be so secretive about it? Honest people don’t need to hide. Why can’t the field vet answer the following himself without going through a third person:


Were you allowed full access to the dead horses?

How many horses did you see on the premises?

What samples were you allowed to take?

What killed the horses?

Is the 146 dead horses accurate?



Taxpayers have a right to know if the horses the BLM claimed suddenly died were in fact dead and what had caused their demise. It should be public record that Dr Newens did not take his own samples or do his own necropsies to independently determine cause of death.



CSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is where Dr Baldwin said dead horses were sent for necropsies. Robak said that the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (located in Ames, Iowa) was the other lab sent samples taken from the horses.


According to the ‘Report on the High-Mortality Incident at the Canon City Off-Range Corral in Canon City, Colorado April-May 2022’ put together by BLM-Colorado State Office and authored by a joint incident review team from BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Program, the BLM-Nevada State Office Wild Horse and Burro Program, Colorado Department of Corrections Office of Inspector General, Colorado Correctional Industries, and Colorado State Veterinarian’s Office, the report states that aside from using the labs at Colorado State University, Additional diagnostic samples were also sent to a specialty laboratory at the University of California, Davis.’ This is not the lab that Robak said were sent samples.



On July 1, 2022 the ‘Situation Report 2022 Canon City Equine Influenza Outbreak’ Prepared by: Steve Leonard, WHB State Lead CO BL M, Canon City, CO and Dr. Albert Kane, U SDA APH ISV, Ft Collins, CO adds the Gluck Equine Research Center, University of Kentucky as a third lab used. Note that is 2010 Albert Kane was not a licensed veterinarian, cannot confirm he has a legitimate license to date as those involved have zero credibility. This speaks to the systemic problem at BLM with transparency.

https://rtfitchauthor.com/2010/03/16/unlicensed-vet-working-on-captured-calico-wild-horses-where-113-deaths-have-occured/?fbclid=IwAR3vNVZLq39oUlB8882ZhnWLNi6kXfU0O30cqfVL0MoyFMUiCCCMZDKtp8o



When asked if Equine Influenza is fatal to horses these were the answers given via email and phone by the same labs the BLM uses:


*CSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory “generally not a fatal disease” phone call to Western Slope Veterinarian Diagnostics


*University of California, Davis - “Influenza is rarely fatal except in donkeys, zebras, and debilitated horses.” - Dr. Trsan, Large Animal Field Service Coordinator, UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital


*Gluck Equine Research Center, University of Kentucky - ”almost never causes death” - Allen Page, DVM, PhD, Scientist/Veterinarian, 108 Gluck Equine Research Center, University of Kentucky


*National Veterinary Services Laboratory - “Although equine influenza infection very rarely results in fatality, severely affected horses can be out of work for up to 6 months.” - Benjamin Nigg, DVM, Veterinary Medical Officer, USDA–APHIS–VS–D&B–NVSL



They all agreed that strict adherence to proper biosecurity was crucial in not making horses sick. They also said recovery could take up to 6 months and that rest and care was needed. Doubtful any of this was done, clearly there was and is rampant negligence on the part of Steve Leonard and the entire BLM agency. Highly unlikely this is an isolated incident.



When I called the labs to confirm they had tested samples from the horses at Canon City I was told ‘due to privacy issues’ only the client BLM, would have access to the report unless they signed a release for others to access it. Obviously Steve Leonard at BLM office would not be doing that. I wanted the signed reports from all the vets not a summary prepared by the BLM on what they said.



The wording is designed to give the appearance that an independent veterinarian was allowed access to the horses to take his own samples and treat them In truth Dr. Ken Newens, which is not named in any report, was only there to review the Biosecurity report and issues. He was not allowed to take his own samples of the dead horses he observed.


BLM math & Steve Leonard CO BLM

Below are dates and counts of horses the BLM claimed were at Canon City as reported to different media and their own report. Anyone can see the numbers do not add up. As the ‘death’ toll went up their stated count of horses remained the same. This is not sloppy counting or typos and attempts to deflect blame onto reporters are just a scheme many use when giving false information. These are government employees paid by you the taxpayer, essentially that means they work for you and are accountable.


April 25 - There are currently 2,550 horses at Canon City said Stephen Leonard, BLM Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Program Manager

https://www.blm.gov/press-release/wild-horse-facility-quarantined-due-disease-outbreak


April 26 - The Cañon City wild horse facility is designed to hold 2,950 wild horses, Hall said. There are currently 2,550 horses at the facility said BLM spokesperson Steven Hall. https://www.9news.com/article/life/animals/wild-horse-facility-canon-city/73-51e614cb-4a27-4329-9d63-acc04595d2bc (85 dead horses)


April 27 - That’s out of 2,550 at the holding facility there. Here’s Steven Hall with the BLM. More horses have died at BLM holding facility in Canon City since April 23 | Steamboat Radio (87 dead horses)


April 28 - The Canon City facility southwest of Colorado Springs, which is currently holding roughly 2,500 horses https://www.kunc.org/regional-news/2022-04-28/equine-influenza-behind-outbreak-thats-killed-95-wild-horses-corralled-in-colorado-blm-says (95 dead horses)


April 29 - According to that spokesperson, equine influenza is “usually not deadly,” and the affects of the virus are more so determined by the herd and its status. Altogether, she said, the facility houses 2,184 horses. She noted the horses have been segragated and that “no mortality has occurred in the large group.” spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Agriculture UPDATE: 94 wild horses have died on BLM property in Cañon City | FOX21 News Colorado (94 dead horses)


May 2 - There are 2,550 horses at the facility, which remains under quarantine. Colorado wild horse deaths: BLM says flu outbreak, smoke dust all factors - Deseret News (106 dead horses)


May 6 - Situation Report 2022 Canon City Equine Influenza Outbreak Prepared by: Steve Leonard, WHB State Lead Dr. Albert Kane CO BLM USDA APHIS Veterinary Services Canon City, CO Ft Collins, CO…in the balance of the facility 2550 total Canon City mortality_ situation report 5_06_22.pdf (blm.gov)


May 8 - 2,550 horses in all. BLM officials told the Denver Post https://www.denverpost.com/2022/05/12/wild-horses-die-unvaccinated-blm/ (142 dead horses)


August 9 - email from Steve Leonard 2424 at facility (146 dead horses)


Email exchange below to Steve Leonard, as you can see he is unable to answer a simple math question, provide legitimate documentation to back up his numbers. To prove how many horses are there one only needs to spend a view minutes taking a video of all the horses. The BLM can do this they chose not to because they can’t….


Whenever the public is denied information ask why the secrecy? Who gains by hiding the truth?



Abusers can be men or women

Animal abuse is just as likely to be perpetrated by a woman as a man, and the same goes for child abuse. Animal abuse is considered by law enforcement to be a prime indicator of future violent crimes. Male abusers tend to be more violent female abusers tend to be more neglectful. We have seen this play out at the hands of the BLM and those they employ at holding pens. Knowing abuse takes place, a crime in every state, and doing nothing does not absolve one of their culpability just because they didn’t do the beating or killing themselves. This extends to all involved at or with Canon City.



There have been many rumors about abuse at Canon City. Every facility, whether public or privately owned, show the same thing; healthy active wild horses fresh off the range and thin sometimes emaciated inactive horses just months or weeks later under the ‘care’ of BLM. Abuse doesn’t always come with whips and chains it can also be in the form of turning a blind eye to wrongdoing you know about or claiming PZP will save horses when we all know that is a lie.



Before/after of Strongheart in the wild. This is typical of BLM treatment and contradicts their pr spin they care for the horses. Photo credit: Carol Walker and after BLM got hold of him now @ Skydog Sanctuary photo credit: Clare Staples


Standing or laying down in filth, dirty water and crammed in small areas is standard ‘care’. Their expression says it all


And the losers are…

Wild horses can’t get a break. Several so called advocate groups were too busy attending a conference promoting the pesticide PZP as a birth control instead of going to Canon City and demanding proof of life and death. They weren’t too busy to exploit the problem for donations to ‘investigate’. A real investigation would mean being on the premises and questioning those involved directly. If that was done by any of these cash begging for profit non-profits it’s been a tightly kept secret. With these groups as friends the horses don’t need any more enemies.



Politics as usual or is it more like defrauding taxpayers?

No time for actual concern once again fraudsters like American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) run by Suzanne Roy and her cohorts found time to spread misinformation, so common these days. They have no time to swing by Canon City and make a personal stand for the species they make money off of but they did make time to post pictures on facebook and attend that PZP conference.



AWHC doing photo ops with Gov Jared Polis helps to sell their plan to defraud the American taxpayer of $20,000,000 with their lies about PZP. Is the Governor, who’s up for re-election this year, in on the plan or just too naïve to know lies from facts? What does this say about those he hires to run his office?


Longtime wild horse advocates Pam True and Kathe Koberdanz arranged for a flight over the habitat known as Piceance before the BLM ‘emergency’ roundup where they falsely claimed the horses were starving. Truth in real time to see the facts, both the Governor and Rep Neguse turned down the chance to see facts while the Gov met with BLM propagandists.



Click here to see how vast and empty the land is which could easily support thousands of wild horses and burros, after all this exact same land and vegetation feeds tens of thousands of cows and sheep…This is true for every wild horse area in the country; tons of land, few or no horses, lots of livestock. Click here to see and listen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lw3-YuV764


Listen to what Pam & Kathe have to say about Canon City click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAfjHHoFrFA&t=4042s



After all these months it’s clear this is no longer a concern for the long list of wild horse non-profits since it’s not a money maker for them. They have moved on without getting any answers, holding anyone accountable or saving any horses. Not one of these groups ever went down to Canon City to protest or get media attention. Actions or lack of action show the harsh truth so many supporters of these groups want to deny and ignore.



We know the BLM is full of something other than truth and that 2550 horses could never have been there at the same time. If they weren’t sent to slaughter then they vanished into thin air because there is little documentation on paper. More questions no answers business as usual…for all sides involved.


Feel free to contact these people who are paid by the taxpayer


Olga Robak - Director of Communications & Public Awareness, Colorado Dept of Ag ph. 720.428.0441 and email olga.robak@state.co.us


Gov. Jared Polis front desk 303.866.2471


Steve Leonard - BLM manager Canon City 719.269.8511 sleonard@blm.gov




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