Sustainable Resources and Development Minister Diana McQueen is undecided on issuing cull permits to trappers to further remove Alberta’s wild horses from the western foothills and Eastern Slopes of the Alberta Rocky Mountains. Once the decision is made, the permits issued to trappers will be as early as Nov. 1, with the trapping season starting on Dec. 15.
In the past two winter seasons, over 350 head have been captured and sent to slaughter. This is an indiscriminate cull, taking foals, pregnant mares and stud horses. These permits are issued to trappers who construct catch pens and bate the traps with hay and salt to lure the horses in. Once they are captured, they are herded into trailers and taken to the kill floors.
Wild Horses of Alberta Society (WHOAS), a non-profit organization actively engaged in a plight to conserve the wild horses of Alberta, was able to buy a few head from these trappers, eventually offering them for adoption. But due to limited facilities, relying on members and donations, resources are limited.
Estimates from Office of Sustainable Resources and Development state there are fewer than 770 head left in the wild. We are not certain how these numbers are calculated as there never has been an official study on population numbers. Taking into consideration foal mortality, due to Alberta spring weather and predators, it will take years for these numbers to replenish.
The hardest hit area last winter was the Panther River, Ghost Reserve Area. Where there once were great bands of horses free roaming in this area, only a few horses remain. This has impacted tourism to the area many times over. Tourists consisting of Albertans, people from other provinces, and visitors from several countries from around the world have come to the area to expecting to view the wild horses, only to leave disappointed.
They travel in private vehicles, tour buses, take a trail ride into the backcountry, book accommodations at a local outfitters etc. This has huge effects on the local economy and will do so for years to come. Please write or call the minister of Tourism, Christine Cusanelli, and let her know how important wild horses are for tourism and the Alberta economy.
Wild horses have been a part of the West Country of Alberta dating back to the 1800s and with natural selective breeding, they have created a gene pool distinct to only Alberta.
Were you aware that these horses were captured during the First World War, taken to Europe and served as mounts for the military. Does this not say something for their ruggedness and hardiness?
These same wild horses are an integral and natural part of the ecosystem, assisting in the control of wild fires, grazing the cut blocks, a natural food source for the grizzly (protected species), black bear and wolves. Support from Albertans and Canadians is required to prevent the cull of 2012-2013 and to bring forward a motion to create an Alberta Heritage Species Act. We urge you to contact McQueen, Cusanelli or your local member of the legislative assembly to stop this potential slaughter.
Currently the government considers these animals a feral species, even though this species is unique to Alberta. Please urge MLAs to have their status changed. The wild horses of Sable Island are a protected species and recently the government of Saskatchewan brought in legislation to protect their wild ponies. And the Newfoundland pony is protected though legislation. Why is the government of Alberta so lagging in this recognition and protection of our native free roaming wild horses?
Wayne Krejci, Shelby MacKenzie
Members of WHOAS