A more accurate count is needed before any more free-roaming horses are captured from the Alberta foothills, says a group of protestors who demonstrated in Red Deer on Saturday.
A small contingent of hardy souls from throughout the province have been camped out at Williams Creek, keeping a watchful eye on the corral set up by a Sundre-area man who holds a permit to capture the horses.
Alberta’s Environment and Sustainable Resource Development ministry issued capture permits this winter in an effort to reduce the number of horses roaming woodlands along the Alberta foothills, including a number of herds located in the areas west of Sundre.
People from the camp along with a crowd of supporters brought their concerns to City Hall Park on Saturday in their ongoing bid to capture the attention of Premier Alison Redford and her government. Rallies have also been held in Edmonton and Calgary.
Angie Pala, a Lacombe-area resident who has spent a couple of days at the camp, said the capture permits are good to the end of the week, but fears they may be extended into March.
“There’s a few things at play here. We’re mostly trying to ask ESRD if they would do a recount, because what they’re going on is last year’s count,”
Sylvia Thacker from Stettler said she had spent the previous week and a half at the capture site, located off the Coal Camp Road, immediately west of the Red Deer River Ranch.
“It’s just a matter of trying to right something that is so dramatically and obviously wrong,” said Thacker.
The permit holder is definitely feeling the pressure of having so many people on quads, snowmobiles and even bicycles keeping watch on his activities, she said.
“He loads in the middle of the night. He has been trying to do it in the dark, when there’s nobody around,” said Thacker.
“He apparently has shipped three mares to slaughter. Those mares were probably in foal. It’s murder.”
There had been little interaction with the permit holder, other than a call to police when the man thought the group had tampered with his gates. It turns out that the lock had frozen, said Calgary resident Mike Hassel, who is also camped at the site.
“We’ve been going in and out, checking to see if there are any shenanigans going on,” said Hassel.
The Williams Creek road is blocked off about seven kilometres north of the Coal Camp gate, so only the permit holder can get into the corral site, he said.
“We can walk in, take snowmobiles or whatever ATVS we have. I biked in,” said Hassel.
The protest group will not interfere with the permit holder, but are watching to make sure no horses are mistreated or injured, he said.
“He’s making it a bit difficult for us. Oh well.”
Thacker said her understanding is that the capture permits were supposed to be good until the end of March, but the date was backed off to the end of February as a result of the protests.
Innisfail cattle-area cattle rancher Don Bester also said the province needs to check the numbers before any more horses are taken. A large number of animals have already died because of the unusually harsh winter, said Bester. Those losses need to be taken into account before more animals are removed, he said.