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Yesterday, we talked about the history of Alberta’s non-native feral horse population, and why we need to manage their impact on the landscape. You can read the whole post here – but if you just want a quick recap, it’s pretty simple:
scarce food + too few predators = trouble.
Feral horses aren’t native, so they compete with existing species for food, and they don’t have many natural predators – so their population can grow extremely quickly.
Feral horses can share the landscape with other species just fine – as long as their numbers don’t get too big. Because there aren’t many natural checks on their growth, we need to intervene and keep the population small enough to be sustainable. And one of the most effective ways to do that is also the simplest: remove some horses from the population.
What is a capture?
A capture is what it sounds like. To reduce the feral horse population by a certain amount, we issue licences for participants to corral some of these horses and either keep them or sell them to other people.
Although a horse capture might seem like a throwback to a bygone ‘Wild West’ era, there’s quite a bit more paperwork involved. Licences, screenings, and many restrictions are used to protect the health and safety of the animals. Here’s the lowdown:
Licences and Screenings
- A licence is required to capture horses. To get a licence, applicants must prove they can humanely capture and transport the horses.
- Applicants are screened to make sure they have experience with handling and transporting animals, and proper facilities for them.
- If an applicant has any history of animal welfare issues, the permit is automatically denied.
Restrictions on Capture
- Capture must be done humanely – this means no snares, guns or other weapons, or anything else that could hurt the horses.
- Typically, baited corrals are used. Food or other bait lures horses into the corral, and the gate shuts once the animals are inside.
- Licence holders must check their corrals and make sure there is enough food and water on a regular basis.
- It is illegal to shoot captured horses, and their welfare during capture and transport is protected by the Stray Animals Act.
Each year, we count the number of feral horses in Alberta. Based on how fast the population is growing, we decide whether or not to issue capture licences. We’ll be back tomorrow to talk about how we made that decision this year – stay tuned.