There’s no need to reduce Alberta’s wild horse population

There’s no need to reduce Alberta’s wild horse population

Province urged to leave West Country’s wild horses alone

There’s no need to reduce Alberta’s wild horse population, especially during this harsh winter, says the Wild Horses of Alberta Society.

There’s no need to reduce Alberta’s wild horse population, especially during this harsh winter, says the Wild Horses of Alberta Society.

Bob Henderson, president of the society, said there have been high foal mortality rates in the past two summers. The harsh winter is also likely to keep birth rates down because mares are drawing on their energy reserves just to stay alive.

These conditions provide a good opportunity to leave the herds alone and do another count to see if they are in fact over-populating their ranges or Mother Nature is doing its own culling, said Henderson.

“Even in a good year, the population reproduction rate is only about 10 per cent.”

Henderson doubts the population which roams a large swath of the West Country will grow this year.

“It may go down, or may remain stable. That’s why we said just leave them alone.”

The province’s Feral Horse Advisory Committee recommended last fall that a roundup or about 200 horses take place this winter. The committee was set up last year and includes representatives from the wild horse society, a veterinary association, SPCA, conservation, equestrian, farm and wilderness groups, the RCMP’s livestock investigator and other stakeholders.

Its decision took into account a growth in the horse population from 778 animals counted in March 2012 to 980 by the following spring. The population was around 200 horses in 2006, says Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, which does a helicopter count each March.

Wildrose environment critic Joe Anglin accused the PC government of going ahead “without a clear objective or enough scientific data to support a cull.

“Wildrose supports scientifically supported methods to manage and protect a health herd of feral horses,” he said in a statement released last Friday.

If it is necessary to reduce the horse population, Wildrose supports an adoption program “instead of the current slaughter method the government is endorsing,” he adds.

Alberta Environment spokesperson Nikki Booth takes issue with calling the roundup a cull, saying the horses are captured. While some are sent for slaughter, the province knows that horse owners and ranchers take some for personal, work and recreational use, although specific numbers are not available.

“People tend to make it sound like all of them are going to slaughter, and that’s not the case,” said Booth.

Booth said feral horses have few natural predators and numbers can rise quickly.

“When that happens it can put the land out of balance. Feral horses eat the same food as the livestock and the wildlife in the area.

“So when you have a population that grows significantly you are putting pressure on the food sources for all animals. You’re also putting pressure on the native plants, which is what they are eating.

“We are trying to maintain a balance.”

Booth said the province isn’t trying to get rid of the horses, only to maintain the population at a level that doesn’t damage the environment or harm other wildlife.

Henderson said it’s not the horses that do the damage. Tens of thousands of cattle are grazed in the area every summer, compared with fewer than 1,000 wild horses.

Clear cut logging is also responsible for a lot of environmental damage, he said.

Horses were last culled two years ago when 212 horses were rounded up, most of them going to slaughterhouses, said Henderson.

Henderson admits it is frustrating refighting the same battle almost every year to try to stop the roundup. His group believes educating the public about what is happening is the best hope for the horses.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Justice Anne Molloy, from top left, John Rinaldi, Dr. Scott Woodside and accused Alek Minassian are shown during a murder trial conducted via Zoom videoconference in this courtroom sketch on December 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Verdict expected today in Toronto van attack trial

Alek Minassian admitted to planning and carrying out the attack on April 23, 2018

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, leaves her home in Vancouver to attend a court hearing, Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Trump comments on trade negotiations with China take centre stage in Meng case

Meng was arrested at Vancouver’s airport more than two years ago

Red Deer dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Commissioner Roger Goodell talks about the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award during the NFL Honors ceremony as part of Super Bowl 55 Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Annual NFL women’s forum enhancing career opportunities

When Sam Rapoport envisioned conducting virtually the NFL’s fifth annual Women’s Career… Continue reading

Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020), speaks during a news conference with Toshiro Muto, left, CEO of Tokyo 2020, after a council meeting in Tokyo on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Kimimasa Mayama/Pool Photo via AP)
Fans from abroad unlikely for postponed Tokyo Olympics

Olympics scheduled to open on July 23

FILE - Singer Jhene Aiko poses for a portrait on Dec. 7, 2020, in Los Angeles. Aiko will host the 63rd GRAMMY Awards on March 14. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Jhene Aiko to host Grammy Award premiere ceremony

63rd annual Grammy ceremony set for March 14

Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault holds a press conference in Ottawa on November 3, 2020. The Heritage Department is committing $40 million to a “COVID-safe events fund” designed to encourage arts and cultural plans to move forward in the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Heritage minister unveils COVID-19 events fund for arts and cultural sector

Financial support tops out at $100,000 per eligible applicant

Opinion: Crisis in long-term care must include data-driven change

More than 19,000 people in Canada have died from COVID-19 – more… Continue reading

The Dawe family home in the Michener Hill subdivision in Red Deer. This house was designed and built by Robert G. Dawe, a local engineer, in 1911 and has remained in the family ever since. (Contributed photo)
Michael Dawe: 65 years of Red Deer history

As a major milestone birthday looms, I thought that it might be… Continue reading

Dallas Stars' Mark Pysyk (13) and Tampa Bay Lightning's Ondrej Palat (18) compete for control of a loose puck in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Dallas, Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Vasilevskiy 3rd straight shutout as Lightning top Stars 2-0

Vasilevskiy 3rd straight shutout as Lightning top Stars 2-0

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) grabs a loose puck as Canadiens defenceman Ben Chiarot (8) and Ottawa Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk (7) battle for the rebound during first-period NHL hockey action Tuesday, March 2, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Hab down Sens 3-1 to snap 5-game winless streak; Ducharme earns 1st NHL coaching win

Hab down Sens 3-1 to snap 5-game winless streak; Ducharme earns 1st NHL coaching win

Most Read