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Horses are wild, deserve protection

Re: Provincial mismanagement of wild horses

Premier Alison Redford and Robin Campbell, the minister for Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, are merely reiterating the misinformation presented by ESRD bureaucrats and are resisting the positive change required to bring management of Alberta’s free roaming wild horses out of the 1950s and into the 21st century.

Characterizing Alberta’s wild horses as merely escaped or abandoned domestic horses is either naive or dishonest. Certainly, there has been feral influence, but when you observe these wild herds you notice an homogeneity of conformation and size, which takes many generations to occur. Natural selection has caused these horses to evolve into a unique breed, perfectly suited for the harsh environment of the Alberta foothills.

Basing this years’ cull on a year-old population study is incredibly irresponsible. Abnormal flooding last year and the extreme amount of snow this winter has increased the mortality rate of both foals and elderly horses. A recent private population study, conducted using some of the same personnel as last year’s ESRD study, indicated that there are only 103 horses in the Williams Creek area with only nine being last year’s foals. One hundred horses in an area of approximately 75,000 acres is less than one horse per square mile, certainly not a case of overpopulation. One can only conclude that the ESRD personnel are either woefully incompetent or their secret objective is to permanently eradicate these horses, while lying about it to the people of Alberta.

ESRD allows select individuals to purchase a wild horse capture permit for $250, and conveys ownership of the captured horses to the permit holder. This entitles them to use or sell the horses for any purpose. The quickest and easiest way to turn a profit is to sell the horses for meat, so the majority of the captured horses are being slaughtered. These are not necessarily the old and infirm horses that are culled by natural predators, like wolves and cougars, but include young, healthy horses and pregnant mares.

Rather than misinforming the public, hiding behind their hand-picked Feral Horse Advisory Committee, and conducting the wild horse capture with as much secrecy as possible, including using the RCMP to harass interested observers with check stops on the Coal Camp Road, the Alberta government should be opening dialogue to investigate the many modern alternatives for managing Alberta’s wild horses in a sustainable and humane manner, preserving them for future generations of Albertans.

Robby McHenry

Penhold

 
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