Managing Alberta’s feral horse population: the 2013-14 capture season

**Thanks to everyone for your comments. As it can be a lot of work to moderate this blog, sometimes we need to close comments after a certain period of time. Comments on this post have now closed. If you want to provide additional comments, you can do so using Alberta Connects. 

This is the third post this series. You can check out the other posts here:

 Crunching the numbers – how we decide whether to open a capture season

Every year, the government measures the feral horse population to decide how we should manage it. As you can imagine, measuring a population of wild animals is no mean feat. Each year, we spend 2-3 days counting horses by helicopter. We counted 980 horses in 2013 – but this is only the number of horses we saw; the actual number will be higher.

Even if the actual number of feral horses is 980 (and not more), that means that population has grown substantially since 2006 – less than ten years. As we’ve talked about, naturally high rates of production and few natural predators are part of the problem. But escaped and illegally released horses also add to the population.

Once we have the stats, we can figure out areas of the province where population growth may cause overgrazing. We then issue capture licences for a limited number of animals in these areas.

There are lots of rules and restrictions to ensure that horses are captured and transported humanely.

There are lots of rules and restrictions to ensure that horses are captured and transported humanely.

This year’s capture season

Based on our current numbers, we have allowed for up to 200 horses to be removed from the population – but the actual number will probably be considerably less than that.

Plenty of restrictions, background checks, and laws ensure that horses captured by licence-holders will be treated and transported humanely.

Captured horses may be kept by licence holders, to ride or to work on ranches and farms. They may also be sold to third parties. As you may have read, in previous years, some animals have been sold to slaughterhouses. We would love if all captured horses found new homes – and we’re working with our stakeholders to explore the possibility of building an adoption program.

Captured horses may be kept by licence holders, to ride or to work on ranches and farms. They may also be sold to third parties for processing. We’re working with our stakeholders to explore the possibility of building an adoption program.

We’re working to be better.

Because earlier generations turned horses loose on the landscape – and some people continue to do so today – we must manage their impact on the population. If we don’t, overgrazing will result – and that will be bad news for many native species.

We’re looking for better tools for this management. In 2013, we established a Feral Horse Advisory Committee for Alberta, made up of members from a wide variety of groups with a stake in how these animals are managed, from advocacy and wildlife groups to rangeland experts and vets. Here are the members:

  • Wild Horses of Alberta Society (WHOAS)
  • Alberta Equestrian Foundation & Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada
  • Alberta Veterinary Medical Association
  • A rangeland expert from the University of Alberta
  • Rocky Mountain Forest Range Association
  • Alberta Wilderness Association
  • Alberta Fish and Game Association
  • Feral Horse capture permit holders
  • Alberta Farm Animal Association
  • Alberta Professional Outfitters Association
  • Spray Lakes Sawmills
  • Sundre Forest Products
  • Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development

Ideas? Please let us know.

If you have thoughts on how we can better manage the impact of Alberta’s feral horses, we want to hear from you. You can comment on this post, and we’ll make sure your feedback is seen by the advisory committee. Or you can write to us using Alberta Connects.

64 thoughts on “Managing Alberta’s feral horse population: the 2013-14 capture season

  1. Too many horses are destroying the landscape and wetlands in the Ghost PLUZ, doing much more damage than any ATV or dirt bike could ever do, as they have unlimited range, and access to every remote fragile water source possible. They are also out there 365 days a year, eating up the grass that is for the big game animals. Increase the harvest of horses to 400, then maybe you will get to your 200 numbers harvested.
    I’ve noticed the huge increase since 2006 as well, they are not native, and are clearly the result of introducing a non-native species to an area with no predators.
    Get with it Government, and quit sucking up to all the animal rights groups who have never stepped a foot in the Ghost PLUZ area to see the feral horse damage for themselves.

  2. Glad to see that ESRD has responsible management of the feral horse population as a priority. With no natural predators, there is no natural control on their population growth and humans must intervene to maintain a balance.

    Please keep the feral horse numbers close to the historic level of less than 500 head and restrict them to the original areas where they were found. Such a plan will preserve this human-introduced non-native species for the future while minimizing their impact on native species.

    • Caleb, you sound like an ESRD employee. The wild horses have many natural predators which are, wolves, bears, cougars and even coyotes. I’ve never heard of there being an “historic level of 500” wild horses, nor there being “original areas” where they were found. There is also abundant scientific evidence of horses being a native species for North America, but don’t suppose you would consider scientific evidence as truth. ESRD is using old numbers to issue 2014 Capture Permits. A recent fly-over count of a few days ago (Jan/14) showed only 68 wild horses in the capture area. With Capture Permits issued allowing for 200 wild horses to be removed there will be no wild horses left and entire gene pools will be gone forever. This is entirely unacceptable.

      • Just chiming in to clear something up: there is only one species of native, truly wild horse in the world – Przewalski’s horse, an endangered species found in Mongolia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horse). Feral horses in North America are descended from domestic horses brought over by European settlers. Many of these horses were used in mining and logging operations; when these operations closed, the horses were released. The descendants of these horses tend to congregate in the same areas today of the province – I think that’s what Caleb means when he talks about the original areas where they were found.

        Even though these horses may have been around for several generations, they are not a native species – they were introduced artificially into the ecosystem. When this happens, it’s common that too few predators will cause rapid population growth in the new species. As we note in the blog series, this is what is happening with feral horses in Alberta. You might be familiar with the introduction of rabbits to Australia by colonists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbits_in_Australia) – although the degree of the problem is different, the root cause is the same.

        Other jurisdictions sometimes try to deal with this issue by eradicating the non-native species. That is definitely not our intent. But in order for feral horses to continue to exist on the landscape without negatively impacting our native species, their numbers have to be managed. Issuing a limited number of capture permits – 200 for an estimated population of 980, or about 20% of the population – helps us to do this.

      • Thank you for your reply. You are wrong that all wild horses in Canada are feral. Some of them may be, as unscrupulous ranchers do dump their domesticated horses on public lands so they don’t have to feed them during the winter, but the majority of them are wild and have evolved to withstand our harsh winters with very little food. Fossils of horses have been found in Canada that have been carbon dated to 900 and 2900 years ago. This proves that horses survived in Canada after the ice age, just as bison and deer did. They are a native species and as such should be protected under the law. The Spanish, did indeed, leave their wonderful horses here and they did prosper, but Canada and the United States both have fossil records predating the Spanish invasion. I have no problem with managing their numbers, only the way in which you do it. Most captured horses go for slaughter. You are aware of this and claim you have no control over what a trapper does with the horses once he captures them. Suggestions have been made through the Steering Committee by Bob Henderson on humane ways to rehome these horses, but no one listened to him. I also think your Steering Committee is heavily weighted in pro-slaughter groups or groups who want to use the public lands to make money off them and eradicating the wild horses, allows them to do this. Alberta Equestrian Federation employs Bill DesBarres, who is an employee of Bouvry Meats. Bill DesBarres also heads up HWAC, which is entirely pro-slaughter and only addresses sending horses into the slaughter pipeline which in no way shape or form, can be considered humane. Alberta SPCA is another organization that has sent its rescued horses to auction where they were bought by kill buyers and slaughtered. Honestly, the only anti-slaughter representative on that Committee is Bob Henderson of WHOAS. When you have a balanced Committee let me know. Please don’t put out false information about our wild horses. They are not feral.

        Thank you.

        V Fisher

      • I am not an ESRD employee, rather a concerned citizen with first-hand experience with these horses and one who has done his own research.

        The rapid growth of the population from 2008 to 2013 is a fact, and one that clearly indicates predation is not a significant factor in horse mortality. A key point is that bears, wolves and cougars are highly adapted to hunt native ungulates, but they are neither equipped nor adapted to bring down healthy horses.

        V, I am a scientist, and I trust verifiable scientific evidence. I know horses are native to North America, but they died out about 12,000 years ago as part of a wave of extinctions due to changing climate and/or the introduction of humans to the continent. They were part of an ecosystem that no longer exists in North America, with many different predators as well.

        The history I refer to is when the horses were first released into the wild in the early 1900s west of Sundre, RMH, and Nordegg. Original numbers sound like they were below 500, and their range was not as extensive as today. Given almost 100 years, they have expanded their range, and due to their adaptability to human-disturbed landscapes, they seem poised for another spurt of expansion and population growth.

        Read the Bork et al paper on foothills horses and how they use the various habitats through the year, and you will quickly see why they do well in areas with roads and human traffic, unlike native animals. Horses also rely on clearcuts, another man-made landscape disturbance that is only increasing with time.

        Horses are not part of a natural ecosystem in the foothills of Alberta, and need to be controlled as such. ESRD shouldn’t be in the business of protecting feral horses, feral pigs, feral dogs, or any other non-native species. However, due to the history of the horses, there is a case for managing them for future viability, which I support.

      • V, your post about horses being a true “native” species to North America is lacking any references to actual research. Based on my own quick dive into the topic, it looks like there are some unpublished post-Ice Age, pre-Columbian radiocarbon dates floating around out there. If you could provide a link to any scholarly research on this matter, I’d be happy to follow up on it.

        From what I read in my quick search, there is no evidence of truly “native” horses in Alberta, and more specifically in Alberta’s foothills. The closest possible “native” horse bones come from the US or Saskatchewan. Records and journals from the earliest Europeans in Alberta indicate that First Nations definitely did NOT have horses until trade with Europeans and stealing from other tribes starting around 1750. (Ex: David Thompson’s Journal) I am certain that the highly resourceful First Nations in Alberta would have made use of any “native” horses if they existed in Alberta prior to the introduction of European-derived horses.

        So the whole “native” species argument does not apply to Alberta’s foothills horses. These are most definitely an introduced, non-native species and must be managed as such.

      • Caleb: here is the link:

        http://thewildhorseconspiracy.org/2013/07/02/exciting-article-about-by-phd-steven-jones-re-more-recent-surviving-native-horse-in-north-america/

        I will have to put you in touch with several people I know, here and in B.C. that have lost horses to cougars.

        As stated, I am not opposed to the wild horse’s numbers being managed, just opposed to trappers sending entire herds, reducing the gene pool, to slaughter. There are lots of other ways in which this could be done. Until there is a balanced Steering Committee with an equal number of anti-slaughter people and organizations, who have no financial interest in those wild horses, this will continue to happen.

      • V, predation of domestic horses can’t be compared to that of a free-ranging herd of feral horses with a dominant stallion. Not only is there the protection of more eyes and ears in a feral herd, but the feral horses are much more prone to fighting off predators.

        You simply can’t achieve ~20% annual population growth with significant predation. This is the same as the elk on CFB Suffield who have no predators there either. It is simply a fact: predation of feral horses, especially adults, is very low.

        This is another line of evidence that these are no longer a native species, or else there would be some kind of predator adapted to take advantage of them as a prey species. The predators that were likely adapted to kill them died out along with the wild horses of North America ~10,000 years ago: dire wolves, short-faced bears, saber-tooth cats.

        The only current predator of horses is the same species that introduced them: humans.

      • Caleb: Apparently you haven’t read AESRD’s response to my email, wherein they base the capture count on a 20-30% increase each year. That means 190+ foals each year. Please don’t tell me a cougar could not take down a foal, proud papa or not. According to ESRD there should be 190 of them running around eating the tops off trees and destroying the cattle’s grass…opps, I mean range and there are very few to be found this year. As to my friends losing their full grown, very healthy horses, those horses are in herds as well, lots of ears and eyes watching, out on a few hundred acres with lots of room to run. Cougars hunt from above and they are very good at it, with one bite to the neck a full grown horse will go down.

        Now according to you your evidence is that these are not wild horses because…..wait for it…..there are no saber tooth tigers or dire wolves around???? You call that evidence??? You obviously don’t have a defense for the proof that I directed you to, that being horse fossils were found in Saskatchewan and Ontario, carbon dated to 900 and 2900 years. Proof that horses survived the ice age and were here long, long before the Spanish left us theirs. There’s lots of other proof out there proving these are wild horses, if you care to find it.

        As stated in all my posts, these are wild horses, not feral, they are a native species, and they belong here and as such they should be protected. Here kitty, kitty, kitty..

      • FWIW, I’ll put my money on feral horses to be more predator-resistant than domestic horses any day. As well, most cougars in Alberta’s foothills are deer specialists. Some big toms take larger animals such as elk or even moose, but many horses are bigger than even moose. And unlike moose, they are in herds. Even part-time elk predators such as wolves and grizzlies are looking at prey about twice as large as an elk if they target horses. Not an insignificant difference when the predator’s goal is to survive another day, not get killed or injured by their food.

        Looking at the actual rate of increase from 2006 to 2011 (200 to 1000 animals), you get an annual population growth of 40%. That number is obviously high, but assuming a large influx of recently released domestic horses due to rising feed prices, assuming natural growth of 20-30% is entirely reasonable.

        Of course foal mortality is present, but much less than that of native ungulates. Why would a black bear try to fight an angry 1,000 lb mare with solid hooves that can break it’s leg when a 500 lb cow elk has evolved to flee from predators and simply can’t put up a fight? Predators aren’t stupid either. They’ll eat everything else in the woods before they target horses.

        As to your objection to my point that horses went extinct, see my other replies where I point out the insufficiency of your reference. Until you have found a better source, the onus is still on you to back up your unsupported claim.

      • MEOW….The onus isn’t on me to do anything, whether you dictate it or not. Scientific proof is proof, whether you like it or not, whether you like the scientist or not, whether you “think” the test was faulty, etc., etc. and as I’ve said from the beginning, there is lots of evidence out there if you care to look. Oh wait, better not, you might not like the scientist, or think he/she is incapable of running tests, or sheesh, he might be a whack job.

        Cougars will kill anything that comes their way if they are hungry, as I said they attack from above most times, Bubye horsey/elk/moose, puddy tats. Sufferin Suchotash!

        You lost this as soon as I gave you evidence, and I haven’t given you ALL the evidence yet.

      • V, you have given me nothing other than a letter some guy posted on the internet with a bunch of alleged samples and dates and no references so you or I can fact-check him. This is not evidence, this is just an unfounded claim. A scientist is a skeptic first, and until I can read more about the source of his claims and the opinions of experts on his work, I simply cannot accept it as a source of evidence. You have made the (highly unconventional) claim that horses are native to Alberta. You are responsible for backing this up. Please send real evidence.

        My evidence is in the eyewitness accounts of the First Nations of Alberta who relate how they possessed no horses, didn’t know what a horse even looked like, and had no word for horse prior to the mid-18th century. When the Peigan first encountered a dead horse belonging to the Snake tribe, they called it a “big dog”, as that was the closest animal they related it to, since it was a type of animal that belonged to people and was useful when domesticated. Alberta’s very own First Nations recognized horses as a foreign species, what more proof do you need?

        If you believe cougars are capable of eating and attacking anything in the woods, why do studies of their predation habits show that most cougars become specialists in one type of prey, focusing on one type of ungulate? They do not simply eat anything that crosses their path, they specialize. An adult female cougar weighs about 100-125 lbs. A big tom maybe about 200lbs. Anything other than the largest male cougars (a minority of the population) cannot target anything much bigger than deer or bighorn sheep.

        Cougars are solo hunters and while they may target cows (calves and yearlings) and horses opportunistically, you can believe that a 1,000-1,500 lb horse represents a formidable challenge. The majority of cougars primarily target deer which weigh about the same as them. Big, experienced cats can and do target elk and moose, but as I’ve pointed out to you several times, horses represent a much more dangerous and difficult target than either of these large ungulates. A horse is up to 10 times heavier (and probably similarly stronger) than a deer, bigger than the biggest bull elk, they stay in herds, and they can respond aggressively to predators. These are all behaviors that increase the risk for a predator, making them a target of last resort. Obviously injured, starving, and probably even some healthy horses do suffer from predation, but based on their observed rates of population growth during years with mild winters, predation simply cannot be a major factor in horse mortality. It seems that the primary cause of feral horse mortality is exposure/starvation during harsh winters.

      • V, found you a couple of cougar/horse references.

        First is from “Cougar: Ecology and Conservation”; edited by Maurice Hornocker, Sharon Negri; page 153:
        “In central California and western Nevada, all wild horses killed by cougars were less than six months old…”
        The reference for this statement is to Turner et al, 1992, which would appear to be to “Seasonal mountain lion predation on a feral horse population”; John W. Turner Jr., Michael L. Wolfe, Jay F. Kirkpatrick; Canadian Journal of Zoology, 1992. A quote directly from the abstract of that paper:
        “No evidence of predation on older horses was observed”

        Second is from “Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward”; by Committee to Review the Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse and Burro Management Program, Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources, Division on Earth and Life Studies, National Research Council:
        “Overall, mountain lion predation on free ranging equids in North America is, with few exceptions, considered uncommon.”
        The reference for this statement is Berger, 1986. This appears to be reference to the following book: Berger, J. (1986) Wild horses of the Great Basin: social competition and population size.

        There is evidence from some Alberta studies that feral horses constitute a small proportion of wolf and cougar diets. The numbers were 7% for wolf packs in the Clearwater region, and 10-13% of adult male cougar diets in west central Alberta (female cougar diets were almost devoid of horses). The wolf study is available online (http://www.fur.ca/files/Density,%20Demography%20wolf%20study%20Summary.pdf) but does not record any more details about prey demographics. The cougar study is pay-walled, so I can’t delve any further into that data either.

        Sounds like predation of feral horses is a minor component of overall mortality. The very fact of the horse’s rapid population growth in Alberta’s foothills is proof of this, since if they were a favoured prey species of the existing natural predators, population increases would also lead to increased predation. This does not appear to be the case, and they remain an incidental, least-preferred large prey species for both wolves and cougars. Predators alone will not keep the horse population in check.

      • V, while I do appreciate the link to Dr. Jones letter, it does not actually represent published scholarly research. He has presented an interesting collection of facts, but without peer review of his work, neither you or I have any expertise to judge whether or not there are problems with his bone samples. I seriously question why such an important revelation would go unpublished in a proper journal of North American pre-history if it was valid.

        FWIW, Professor Jones was a Physicist at Brigham Young University. He’s Mormon. The Book of Mormon posits a highly “unique” history of North America that goes against all evidence in many other aspects. He is a highly biased source who appears to be searching for facts to support a religious belief. Not what I would call a reliable source. As an added bonus he’s a 9-11 conspiracy nutter to boot and got retired early because of that according to his own bio.

        Please send me some more reputable sources for the “native” horse theory or back away from your claims.

      • Here kitty, kitty, kitty..HA.

        I grow weary of this banter. He wasn’t the only scientist involved in the research, and carbon dating is carbon dating. Once you start attacking someone’s character, you’ve lost the argument. As I said there is lots of other proof out there, just no big kitty cats.

      • V, first off I asked you for a link to actual research. An open letter published on the internet does not count. Second, as a a scientist I do have issues with someone approaching their research with a clear religious bias in mind. That is a red flag. However, if he had a published, peer-reviewed paper on the matter, I would know there is at least a chance that he is on to something. He does not have this.

        Have you looked up bone I-8581 at the Canadian Museum of Nature from Sutherland, Saskatchewan that was tentatively dated to 2,900 years ago? No? Me neither. Have you read the report or paper that published this tentative date? No, me neither since there is no reference to where to find this information.

        While the science behind carbon dating is sound, there are many things that can render a date meaningless, for instance contamination or simply mis-identification of a bone fragment. Until you have some better sources for the “native” horse claim, you are simply following faith rather than the facts.

        And as I pointed out earlier, if horses were “native” to Alberta, why did none of the First Nations tribes possess or even recognize horses prior to the mid 1700’s? That is an inescapable fact that the only eyewitnesses in Alberta prior to Europeans had no tradition, no record, and no name for horses.

      • I would like to add my voice to the call for PROTECTION OF ALBERTA’S WILD HORSES through a moratorium on capture permits and formulation of a management plan that takes into account independent scientific research and the value place by Albertans and people across Canada on preserving these unique and iconic herds.
        Please advise on how many skinny cattle come off the range in the fall. Where is the evidence of damage to grazing lease, conifer saplings nipped, etc etc. The numbers counted in spring 2013 don’t agree with what is used to sway the public. Oh and when did EIA become a concern for all equestrian owners. Should we be testing our domestic horses?

      • Caleb:

        You should know that arguing with these people with actual hard science is a “waste of air”. There is always some unsubstantiated claim that they present as “clear and unrefutable scientific proof”.

  3. All I’m going to say is that the government needs to stop playing God and decide the fate of these animals. You have absolutely no right to take animals out of the wild. No right at all. Greed always stands in the way of doing the right thing. Don’t tell me that wild horses don’t have any natural predators – have you never heard of wolves, bears, coyotes, mountain lions, etc.? It’s even more absurd that you are allowing those that capture the horses to do whatever they want with them…you don’t care if they are sent to a slaughterhouse, while the horses are very inhumanely killed. You don’t care that you are killing off herds. Stop messing with nature, and let nature take its course. (I’m not looking to argue this with anyone, this is MY opinion).

      • I stongly agree with the comments of L.S. and V.Fisher. Proactive stategies, if any at all, are what makes sense. Identification of persons who release horses to the wild must be pursued and HEAVY fines the sanction. There should be a ban on selling “captured” horses to slaughterhouses and again those doing so should be heavily fined. Unfortunately, too many Albertans care about profit beyond all else, so hit them where it hurts the most – their pockets.

  4. I agree 100% with Caleb, a SCIENTIST, ENOUGH SAID.

    I don’t know any of you, but I do know a spend a lot of time riding my dirt bike, ATV and ski-doo in the Ghost PLUZ. Like the government rep said, the numbers have grown considerably since 2006, and I have witnessed this fact straight with my own eyes. There are literally herds of horses, all around, destroying delicate waterways and ecosystems. These 100% Feral horses need to be contained, and I suggest that they capture more than the 200 this year. The damage they are doing to the Ghost PLUZ is unprecedented.

    Spend some time out in the forests of Alberta, that will make you agree with SCIENTISTS, not your heart or something you read online from the comfort of your lounge chair.

    • 1 scientists ,probably paid by the ESRD disclaiming other scientists papers as misinformation ,what’s new. Cattle destroy the waterways and ecosystem 10 fold more than horses.and so does your dirtbike quad and sled.

  5. Too many FERAL horses are destroying the landscape and wetlands in the Ghost PLUZ, doing much more damage than any ATV or dirt bike could ever do, as they have unlimited range, and access to every remote fragile water source possible (Off roaders have a designated trail system only). FERAL HORSES are also out there 365 days a year, eating up the grass that is for the big game animals. Increase the harvest of horses to 400, then maybe you will get to your 200 numbers harvested.
    I’ve noticed the huge increase since 2006 as well, they are not native, and are clearly the result of introducing a non-native species to an area with no predators.

  6. Regardless of how the horses got to where they are now, management is a necessity to preserve native species. As for where they go after they are captured, that is legally up to the person who owns them, and not any committee or John Q Public to decide. As an option, processing is one way in which the unwanted horse can be dealt with, and it is humane, despite all the misinformation out there. You can consult the new Equine Code of Practice for more information on end of life options http://www.nfacc.ca/pdfs/codes/equine_code_of_practice.pdf
    What concerns me is the government getting involved in the adoption process. Many of these horses will not make suitable mounts, nor breeding prospects. Adoption would allow the general public to access horses that may not be suitable for human interaction and it brings about many safety concerns when trying to deal with an untouched or feral horse.
    Sincerely,
    A horse person who knows better than to adopt a feral horse!

    • Hi Sam,

      Thanks for your comment. I understand your concern about a potential adoption program – just wanted to clarify that if this were to become a reality, we would be working with stakeholder groups to make sure that horses that are not suitable for interaction are not adopted. Safety – of both the adopted horses, and their new owners – would be paramount. That being said, many horses can and do do well after being adopted, and we want to make sure that’s a possibility for as many as possible.

      Jackie

  7. Please educate yourself on how horses are slaughtered, then you might change your mind about them being captured.

    Horses have plenty of natural predators, they are PREY animals. Coyotes, wolves, cougars, mountain lions, etc. all kill horses (both WILD and domestic).

    Again, not wanting to argue this with anyone as everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but please don’t encourage the gov to increase the cull number. That is just not right.

  8. Sorry – forgot to add, if it was 110% sure that the horses would be re-homed to reputable ranches for trail rides, or trained to be used for some other riding purpose (such as cutting horses, reining horses, etc), I’d feel wayyyyy differently about the cull.

  9. Whether you call these animals feral or not they have been re-wilded. Without going into all the distracting side arguments of whether they belong or not they’ve been part of this landscape as long as the first explorers so let’s move on and talk about the real issue. These wild horses like the other ungulates do have natural predators. If not, why then would the ESRD on their very website keep advertising for the hunting and trapping licence offers of such animals as cougars, wolves and bears? Despite numerous protests, countless petitions and well over 15,000 emails and letters to this Alberta Government, capture licenses for 200 of our 853 wild horses were issued and will be distributed.
    This government has not responded to any inquiries and so it is reasonable to assume that no input from the public has yet been considered. The apparent recipients of the capture licences were the ranchers …yes, the ones who lease the provincial land for their cattle. These groups will profit not only from the beef they raise on crown land but also from this horse slaughter.
    This government has put together an advisory board that is so unbalanced it is an absolute embarrassment to anyone with a reasonable mind to ponder fairness and representation of all concerned parties.
    Do the right thing and find alternative solutions such as finding a conservation area or making sure these animals are properly given the heritage treatment they deserve. STOP THE SLAUGHTER!!!!!!

    • So agree with B !!! Sadly humans are soooo GREEDY! My stomach turns at how sick our race has be come!

  10. I’ve noticed that every pro capture comment here avoids the subject of what happens to these horses after capture! Is it because the details of how these animals stress and suffer in captivity, especially when they are caught up in the horrific horse slaughter pipeline,is “taboo” ? Wouldn’t want the general public finding out the truth about how terribly inhumane horse slaughter is, and even more so ( if that is possible) for animals that are not accustomed to enclosures, trucks and handling! If there is a need to “manage” the numbers ( and in this case 800-900 animals in a vast area of wilderness does not seem to warrant intervention), then laws need to be brought in to protect the animals from slaughter, with a specific program introduced for training and adoption.
    I would much rather see the wild horses in their natural environment, than hear the obnoxious sound of ATVs roaring through the wilderness. I’ve seen the horses–they are amazing and beautiful and the only damage to wilderness I witnessed is from logging and oil exploration- human made damage. The horses belong where they are–some people just don’t appreciate what they are and what they represent–too busy trying to make a buck off everything, and too caught up in their own agendas!

  11. Caleb you fail to take native oral history into consideration. The history that is written is purely a white self -serving one. The RCMP website acknowledges using these horses as remounts in the 1800’s. The BC government acknowledges their presence back into to 1700. And what do you think the Indians used to chase the buffalo off the cliff at Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump.
    The Lac la Croix pony has been in the Ojibway oral history since before Cortez made landfall in 1497. The list goes on. The reported count in 1895 was over 42,000 horses, so how they suddenly appeared in the early 1900’s is beyond me. The horses the forestry and mining industries supposedly turned loos more than likely started life wild, then were turned loose when no longer needed. The thing to remember with that is any stallions that had been in this group would have been castrated before being put to work. The ESRD site is full of misinformation. I think that until they can get updated scientific research results, the culls should be stopped. Genetic research is far more advanced now than it was when this information was gleaned. Back then about all they could tell was that it was a horse.
    With less than 1000 Wild Horses left, this government needs to stop and take the time to find out the answers to everyone’s questions before they have managed this species to extinction. The food supply in these areas was more than sufficient up until we started sending cattle up there to graze in the summer, WITH the horses. I’m not saying no cattle can be grazed in the mountains, i understand that ranchers need to have time to grow hay crops etc, however, I have noticed that many people seem to have a lot of cattle in the summer, and not a one in the winter. Crown grazing is intended for ranchers, who own ranches, to have the opportunity to raise feed crops to get their cattle through the winter, not for someone to make a quick buck by buying at the sales in the spring and shipping them in the fall. I hope it is a requirement for a crown grazing permit to actually own a ranch, not a house in the city.

    Another concern, is that the cull is based on the previous year’s counts. There is no room for flexibility based on nature, for example, this year’s floods and devastating winter conditions. If the latest counts on the Williams Creek area are any indication, this cull would be devastating. The number ESRD is going by is from March 2013 with 169 horses counted. Within the last 2 weeks, three more counts have been done by competent parties. The highest count they could get for the area was 68 horses. Nature and the predators that ESRD states don’t exist have done the job already. FYI, a pack of wolves CAN take down a buffalo, a horse, especially these compact wildies, would not be a problem.

    My suggestion to the ESRD is to stop this cull Now before it is too late to undo a big mistake, and to reassess who is on the committee that makes these decisions about whether to have a cull and how many. Also we need to have a better result for the culled horses. Slaughter is not the answer. A reserve should be set up for these horses where they can live without harrassment. I have many ideas for solutions, however until the over-abundance of people who are making a buck from the slaughter industry are balanced out on the committee, I don’t hold out much hope . The Alberta government is responsible for these horses. These are the horses who broke the soil to plant crops, carried the NWMP to settle this province, and who pulled the supply wagons and artillery guns in WW1. They deserve better than a slaughterhouse even if they can’t be broke. If culls are held, there should be a more selected group, with the ones who don’t fit being returned to the wild, not shopped to Bouvry’s plant.

    As for the forestry industry, if they were honest, they would realize that deer and elk are also browsers and will eat the tops off the seedlings. Seriously people, 879 horses are not the answer to every evil in the forest. OH, and if someone got ‘attacked’ by a stallion, perhaps they shouldn’t be messing with his herd.

    • Quote “And what do you think the Indians used to chase the buffalo off the cliff at Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump.”

      L Loasby you are very, very misinformed. Have you ever been to Head Smashed In? If you read the literature, on the walls of the building and in the displays, the Natives used the area approximately once every 1000 years, they dressed up in coyotes clothing, and crept on the ground, slowly towards the herds, with laneways strewn with rocks to direct the herds over the cliff. Why? Because they had no horses. Ask a Scientist. And BTW I have been to Head Smashed In.

      Nothing has been ever natural about non native feral horses in the GHOST PLUZ. Their numbers have gotten out of hand, and I applaud the government and government reps on this website for passing on real, scientific, actual information. I see these animals every time I go out riding my dirt bike/sled/atv, and the numbers have increased quite astonishingly. They are the number one species I see, more than deer, moose, coyotes, that I do see on each and every one of my rides. Yet before 2006 the case was the opposite. Time for action. Enough love-ins and more action, weighed in by people who actually use the areas, not just people who go to Calgary dog parks.

      • Their numbers have gotten out of hand? There are less than 900 horses on over 2.2 million hectares. Don’t be daft. The Lakota people became the horse people, They were on horse back very capably when white man moved west. They were commented on by Lewis and Clarke when they originally explored west. The Lakota did not become such accomplished horse people in a generation or two. They had to learn it all for themselves, they had no one to teach them.

        Also these horses have already been scientifically traced at least to the Spanish horses. You really can’t believe everything the government tells you, according to them they magically appeared in 1911 when the forestry industry mechanized. Really?? And just where do you suppose the forestry industry got those horses?? Even if they released them they were more being returned I think…….But that would just be my opinion, I can’t see them breeding a bunch of horses in Europe to send to the new world to pull logs out of the forest, but apparently that is what they want you to believe

    • L, a very quick reply to a couple of points from your comment. I won’t get into the rest because it seems to involve your value judgements and those are not something I can change through discussion.

      You appear to have never been to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, which is a shame. It is an amazing site, and an amazing cultural centre/museum. Truly one of Alberta’s top attractions. If you had been there, you would know that the various First Nations groups to have used the jump over thousands of years did so without horses. Hence the need for a jump. With horses, bison could be run down and killed on the open prairie. Prior to horses, a drive over some type of ledge or drop-off represented one of the most productive ways to harvest large amounts of bison meat. I strongly encourage you to visit Head-Smashed-In, it is worth the trip.

      While fascinating, Ojibway oral histories have no bearing on Alberta, as they were a tribe originally from the western Great Lakes area. Alberta’s own First Nations have no oral history of horses prior to the mid 1700’s. Horses had obviously been absent from Alberta for a very, very long time for that to be the case.

      • I will concede HSIBJ however, the Ojibway history has much more to do with Alberta natives than you imagine. The Lakota people came west after the Ojibway won a war with them because they had the ponies (pre 1700’s actually pre 1479, therefore ‘always here’) If there were horses in the western part of Ontario, its a flat stroll west, the moose made the trek, obviously it is not that hard to believe (since apparently everything out here comes from the east) the horses would have made the same trek

      • Unless your an elder of the First Nations, you have no right to make any comments on the oral history.
        You are voicing only one man’s personal opinion.
        In the end, this government will be replaced by a vote of the people who want the horses to remain.

    • Great comment–level headed and thoughtful–something the ESRD needs to find before an Alberta treasure is “mis-managed” to the point of extinction.

    • L Loasby,

      You are sounding more and more misinformed with every reply. You have the audacity to call me daft, your posting should be stricken as it goes against the posting rules on this website. Typical of misinformed individuals. Moderator, please review L Loasbys comments.

      The count is at 980, and that does not include the ones they cannot see hidden in the woods, bottom of ravines, beside cliffs, and vast areas that are simply missed due to human error by missing extensive areas, and Feral horses outside of the boundaries, etc, etc. Let me ask you this, how much time to you spend in any of the PLUZ in a given year? I spend about 35 days there. I have seen countless damage to fragile waterways, ponds, marshes, streams, coulees, valleys, native grasses, etc, all because of the over population of your FERAL horses. I have pictures and documentation with coordinates to prove my claims. Why don’t we just release FERAL dogs to deal with the FERAL horses? I don’t think so. But that might make you happy. I guarantee that is about 35 more days in 1 year that I have spent in the PLUZ, surveying the Feral Horse Damage, each year since 1994.

      The round up has already been decided, it is going ahead whether you like it or not. Chalk a win for mother nature and the native species.

      Alberta Government is doing the RIGHT THING. My hat is off to the moderators on this website and the Alberta Government for moving ahead with this necessary round up.

      • Justin, I just wanted to let you know that I’m aware that there is a problem with the language being used by some posters on this forum. I did decide to approve the comment you’re referring to, but I am monitoring posts for personal attacks and insults, and those posts will not be published.

      • Justin: The ESRD’s count is at 980. That is last year’s count, not the count as of today. Individuals have flown over the capture site at least twice now and they can find only 68 horses. As it is easy to see the trails in the deep snow, that to me, seems an accurate count. We have requested the capture be postponed until an up-to-date count can be done. That doesn’t sound unreasonable to me.

        For every picture you have of damage done, there are pictures of NO damage done, with horses and deer grazing in belly deep grass. Also, how did you get to these sites, on an ATV or dirt bike. Did you cause damage yourself?

        These are wild horses, not feral, every time you say it, someone will come back and correct you. There is ample proof to support this, like it or not. The question is, and I’m sure most people already have this answer, is why does the government continue to ignore it.

        I have a question for ESRD, so I hope you’re reading. Who is going to be doing the Coggins on the captured horses? Is it up to the permit holder to do it himself, or does the test have to be done by a qualified vet? I personally wouldn’t trust any test if done by the permit holder. If it is done by a qualified vet are there conditions in place that it is done in accordance with proper protocol such as a clean needle each time, proper tagging of horse and sample, etc. I’m also going to assume that the vet testing these horses, if there is only one vet, is not the vet on the Advisory Committee, but someone impartial and independent.

        This comes down to a cattle issue, which has been stated to someone by ESRD’s Don Livingston. I believe it. Cattle ranchers won’t be happy until all wild horses are killed and removed. They believe all the grass on public lands belongs to their cattle. They would ask for all deer, elk and moose to be killed and removed if they thought they could make that fly.

      • Hi V – to answer your question, the testing is done by an independent vet and the results are sent to a private lab. Protocol is in place to ensure the safety of the horses during testing.

        To add a bit of background to your comments about the count: the reason why ESRD counts in March of each year is because that is when temperatures are typically warmer and the snow is starting to melt. More horses are out in the open, so the count is more accurate. In mid-winter, when the weather is cold, horses (like other animals) like to take shelter under trees and brush – and in other places that makes them more difficult to spot from a flyover. To make sure the count is accurate, only visible horses are counted – we can’t make inferences from tracks. It’s logical that, in that situation, the count would be lower.

      • ESRD please don’t make my post sound like they only counted horses if they could find tracks. Two separate flyovers have been done and ONLY 68 horses were found throughout the entire area. We’ve asked that the capture be postponed until a more accurate count can be obtained. That is not unreasonable. It is unreasonable to completely ignore the 10’s of thousands of people who have contacted you voicing their dismay, disgust, anger and frustration at ESRD’s continued unfounded stance that these horse need to be removed or managed.

  12. I’m an animal lover and a realist. I love horse’s and Alberta wild game, I’ve grown up with booth and come to appreciate booth, I have a love for animal conservation management and hunting. The wild horses are not indigenous to Alberta. Horse’s are livestock. This group of livestock was released to the wild by loggers, farmers and other settlers who couldn’t manage them anymore or simply didn’t need them in the early 1900 time frame. Its our responsibility to manage them and significantly reduce the population. The species we need to favour is the native wildlife, the White tailed Deer, Mule Deer, Elk, Big Horn Sheep and Moose in these areas. They all compete with the Horses that require more resources to maintain themselves then the native species which are already tending with large wolf populations that stalk them year round, Cougars stalk these animals year round, as well as Grizzly and Black Bears from spring to fall. Wolves are semi managed with hunting, so are the Black Bear, and limited Cougar hunting but the Grizzly Bear has not been legal to hunt for many years. These animals are not adapted for hunting Horses and when the opportunity of killing a 1000lb Horse or a 400lb Cow Elk they will go for the animal of less risk of injuring them with minimal effort. The wild horses need to be managed as a start, capturing 200 that will have a little impact on them. These numbers of approximately 980 I’ve seen on a few websites is probably low, people have said with the floods that the count may be inaccurate. Horses aren’t stupid they leave an area that would be flood zones and affected by heavy rainfall. A few may have died from that but nothing that would significantly dampen the population. The 2013-2014 winter has been tough on them, yes its been tough on all the animals but its a typical winter, the stronger animals survive and the weaker will perish its just what happens. With the permitted 200 capture cap in place hopefully the limit is met. Mares and stallions that are captured and mature will be most likely extremely difficult and most likely a large majority will be sent for slaughter, the younger yearlings and foals could have potential for riding and train-ability. For horse’s that can’t be handled its in our best interest to slaughter them, thousands of domestic farm horses that can’t be worked with are dealt with like that. With the regulations in place for this I believe this to be a good start to managing the horses and favouring the natural Canadian wildlife

    • V Fisher,

      As per the moderator, the count is in March, and being I spend about 35 days per year more in the PLUZ more than you, I bet those numbers are closer to 1080. I can count 68 horses in 1 day just in the GHOST PLUZ on one trail, it is actually very easy, as I often see herds of 12-15 running through wetlands, across rivers, damaging delicate ecosystems and fish habitat. They stay in herds for protection from any threat, hence their numbers have grown so quickly. I travel to areas on designated ATV/Sled/Dirt Bike Trails, maybe you have even heard of them. The damage is next to the trails in countless areas, it is actually quite sickening. Think of how you see cows around a feed trough in a small farmyard, how the wetlands are all trampled, same thing. I have pictures and gps coordinates imbedded into the photos, hundreds of them. But I expect you have never been to the trails, from how it sounds. We also keep the trees that fall on the trails cleaned up, and build bridges over streams, so that if there is a fire, the fire responders can get into an area quicker when they have to. What are you doing to support the area?

      Please show the scientific evidence where we have Wild Horses in Alberta, because, then I am going to go back to PLUZ, claim that I found them first, and my name will become part of this new species name.

      As the moderator corrected you earlier, there is only one species of native, truly wild horse in the world – Przewalski’s horse, an endangered species found in Mongolia.

      It’s too bad that someone, a very long time ago, maybe told you that those horses are wild, hey kids believe anything. But the dream became a nightmare when the government, and the science community maybe told you the truth, otherwise. Natives did not use the horse until white man came to North America, making all of your claims unfounded. There are no carbon dated examples of horse bones anywhere in North America prior to the first explorers bringing them to North America.

      Please be my guest, go test these Feral Horses of Alberta and we can count their Chromosomes. You have been directing traffic a lot on here, telling the government to do things, but I don’t hear that you have contributed anything but lip service. I do use these areas, support outdoor recreation, which in turn employs thousands of Albertans, buy fuel, insurance, pay taxes, on all the equipment that I use in the PLUZ. I enjoy it, and I wish you would as well. You cannot see it from the comfort of your home. I have seen more Feral horses of Alberta in 1 day, than you probably will see in your lifetime.

  13. This is another front for a very corrupt government with no regard for the interest of the horses what-so-ever. I see that my points which are all scientifically grounded have not passed your review point. Well done ESRD. Your day for exposure of falsities is coming.

    • Hi there – I’ve been through and approved all comments that met the requirements for posting on this blog. Some of the posts commented over the weekend contained language personally attacking and/or insulting either other commenters or ESRD staff. In accordance with our comments policy – which is stated at the top of this post – those comments were not published. If you are not seeing your comment, that is likely why.

  14. IMO and experience, ATV’s, 4x4ing etc. ruin the land faster than any animal can. At least the animals are leaving something behind to enrich the soil. Not beer cans, plastic bottles and so forth.

    So what about EIA (swamp fever) ESRD claimed as the reason for the cull initially? So you could test the horses for a potential threat, I have heard nothing more of that? That is concerning? Should you not quarantine the entire herd until you can do coggins testing and rule that suggestion out? It doesn’t seem logical to me that you hand out permits to people and risk exposure to others…even if it’s just a thought you had.

    So many folks are against this cull. Do you look at polls? Do you read what people are saying? Does anyone care what people are saying? The PC’s will care in the next election. My vote will be WR without a doubt at all.

  15. Let’s talk about a couple of more “damn lies” as these “wild horse” supporters like to push. I would like to point you to the following webpage. I believe you have seen it since some of the information they quote extensively originates from it:

    http://members.shaw.ca/save-wild-hor….%20Alison.htm

    Now this apparently “distinguished ” scientific” paper is cited innumerable times by the “wildies” supporters. From my review, it appears they “cut and paste” these passages ad infinitum. (Now, for the sake of brevity, please accept my use of this term and the quotation marks around it only as a common nomenclature on the subject. This does not mean that I am in support this characterization)

    Now, upon seeing this article I was astounded. Indeed, if the statements of fact in this “study” are indeed correct, this sets the entire discourse around the subject upside down! My first course of business was a search on the academic databases to see what else the “esteemed Dr. Alison” has published. Apparently he has published nothing? There does not seem to be a mention of this individual anywhere in the scientific or academic databases on this or any related subject. Strange. Gave Gus’s assistant a call, and she had never heard of him either (that would be Gus Cothran – the leading equine geneticist at Texas A & M). Stacy did her own, independent search on the databases available to her at Texas A & M and could not come up with nothing either. Indeed, this is strange.

    I tried phoning the number given on this study to talk to the author, “Dr. Alison” directly. He will have the answers. Phone number out of order. And a quick search finds that there is no contact information for a Robert M. Alison in Orilla, Ontario. Damn, this is important scientific stuff and I can’t get ahold of this genius?!?

    My next step is a review this important piece of literature, and to try and “note-up” the references contained therein. You see, when someone publishes an academic work, referencing is the critical process of citing authorities for various statements of fact provided by the author(s). This greatly enhances the ability to “peer review” – that is other professional or academics can review or “note-up” the citations given, and establish the veracity of the information contained therein and draw their own conclusions. This turned out to be a frustrating exercise as apparently “Mr. Alison” did not retain any of what he was taught in his “undergraduate” years of the Harvard Referencing system. Damn – none of his statements or conclusions seems to line up with the authorities referenced. This can’t be right – these findings are so important!

    No fear. There are a number of outstanding references to support Mr. Alison’s conclusions ending with (Howlett, pers. comm.). Ah – personal communications with a Mr. Howlett (well – at least Mr. Alison got that citation right so I can follow it up!). Referenced at the end of the article “Steve Howlett, a wild Mustang specialist at Dugald, Manitoba”. Damn – now we are getting somewhere! Ooops. Hit a bit of a roadblock. No educational or research facilities in Dugald. University of Manitoba does not show a Steven Howlett on its faculty – nor for that matter any other educational institution in Manitoba. Google search! Wait – he has a website. All about his horse “Shandi” – who is a mustang! Ah yes – how convenient. This is the gold mine – the source of all of this ground-breaking information. And the horse has been genetically tested and registered! Hmmmmm. Somewhere. Doesn’t say where. And DNA analysis was done!? This horse died in 2004 which is about 2 years before they had perfect the process of mitochondrial DNA tests in equines……….. Oh – Mr. Howlett must have meant a simple blood test. Just must have a little “oversight” on the author’s part.

    So now confident of being able to prove these conclusions of Messrs. Howlett and Alison, I composed an email to the 4 “Spanish Horse\Mustang” breed registries to get the required information. (As an aside – all 4 of these people were extremely helpful in helping me determine the validity of these statements of Mr. Howlett. I would especially like to thank Marye Ann Thompson of the Spanish Mustang Registry for her assistance “above and beyond the call” and putting me in direct touch with the other three registry personnel.) Interestingly enough, none of these organizations have never registered a Canadian captured horse. But that can’t be right? It said so on the Internet……..

    So, what I am left with is this. Mr. Howlett owned a “mustang” and that appears to be his sole claim to being an “expert” in the field. He got “DNA analysis” done and had the horse registered. But we can’t find out where. He apparently said a few things to a “Mr. Alison” in a phone call, and this “Mr. Alison” typed up a “research study” that he then posted on the Internet. But such “research study” is not contained anywhere else in the scientific or academic literature. And now this is considered to be “irrefutable scientific proof” (Mr. Howlett’s and Mr. Alison’s words) that the Sundre feral horses are the direct descendants of the mestengo of old and contain the pure Spanish lineage of this type (again author’s words).

    But what the “hay” – I am convinced! Where do I send my donation to save the Alberta “wild” horses?

  16. Just want to get my two cents in here for what it is worth. Since the age of 14 years old I have spent most of my spare time in the west country of Alberta. I am now 54 years old. I spend more time in the back country than anybody I know, sometimes a month at a time. It is a way of life for me and not just a weekend hobby. I spend an average of 90 days a year in the clearwater and ram river water sheds. When i was younger you could go out and find a few small groups of horses in several areas, But over the last 7 to 8 years i have watched a total population. There are bands of horses everywhere. Most of these horses showed up at about the time the PMU barns started to shut down. On the upper waters of cripple creek is a nice herd of paints, in the cutoff area is a herd of blacks, on the 7 mile flats is a mixed bunch, in the rig street area there are several groups. In trout creek area is a bunch more, behind peppers lake is another band, I wonder what kind of population count is done in these areas. Most of these horses come a runnin if you shake a grain bucket. Lots of them have brands, my daughter in law has walked up and caught several of them and they lead pretty good with just a twine around their neck. The number of horses in these areas is growing rapidly. These are not a natural species in these areas. If allowed to grow at this rate of expansion we will have no natural area left for deer and elk to winter on and everything will die off, horses included. As romantic as the idea of wild horses is, this is not what I am seeing in these areas.These are escaped or released horses and do not belong. I for one believe that more horses need to be captured and removed from the west country. Do not takje what I say and turn it around to say I am for slaughter of horses because I am not. I also believe that any horse can be trained given the time and right methods.

  17. Our Canadian Heritage , Alberta Wild Horses , we must decide How many are we going to keep in the wild . and D.N.A. Testing must be done when captured and turn the true Wild Horses back into the Wild .. Wild Horses have roamed the foothills of Alberta long before Whitman ever came here . and are true Wild Horses . our Wild Horses have lots of predators . in the wild .. Bears , Wolfs . Big Cats . Coyotes .. Take down the weak the old and the lame Wild Horses and HARD WINTERS , help keep the numbers down .. many are shot by Humans .. The logging Horses that were turned out yrs. back would have been rounded up and sold for Meat .. and many would never had made it in the wild .. I have over 30,000 photos of Alberta Wild Horses . , I have gave TOURS OUT . to see the Wild Horses ,, People from across Canada and the U.S.A. come to see our Wild Horses ,, many people Paint my photos .. ,,Farriers and Vets. from around the World use my photos to Study the Natural Horse .. .. Our Wild Horses are VERY Important to the Horse Industry of the World .. the NATURAL HORSE .. and much more .. thank you Ken McLeod ..

  18. The one comment stating that the Wild Horses are bigger in size then a moose made me laugh! I’ve been out there photographing the horses and no, with all the ones I seen there was sure non bigger then a moose! The Wildies are smaller, compact animals. They don’t reach the size of a shire or Clydesdale and that’s what they would have to be, to be bigger then a moose unless you talk of moose calves!
    Why is the ERSD not looking into the birth control option? It would be way more humane and less stressful then the capture, shipping and slaughter! Britain was smart enough to realize that horses are much more sensitive then cattle and there horses have to be slaughtered one by one and not a whole bunch be chased in the kill chute at one time! No such precautions in the AB slaughter houses as far as I know! I also agree with the previous stated idea that horses deemed dangerous or untrainable should rather be released back to where they were caught instead of being send to slaughter! The birth control vaccine could be administered with dart guns, so no capture necessary and I’m sure if the ERSD would not want to shoulder the costs, all of us protection advocates would even donate to cover the costs! We are not only shouting we’re willing to do something!
    Would it really hurt anybody to give this a try and see what happens?? I don’t think so. I can’t see the whole Eco-System of the region break down from waiting a year or two! If the horses have not enough predators, why are wolves and cougars even hunted in this area? The logging left such a mess out there, that it’s hard to get around unless you are on the roads. The horses can just just run full speed from a predator, they would probably start to tumble and do somersaults. How is this not destroying the native grasses and plants? While I followed a small band of stallions around, I had to carefully place my steps to not break an ankle and the small tree’s I seen which were planted for reforesting were not damaged. They were growing just fine and in several stages of growth, which I can’t say from the ones on our own land that were heavily nibbled on by the dear. Do I want all the dear shot because of that? Sure not!
    I don’t say that the horses don’t have to be monitored, but I do say do it in a humane way with the least amount of invasion, stress and pain for them!!!!
    BTW have you looked at the current amount of signatures the petition to protect them as gotten???
    Does it tell this government something that as of this minute 11,327 people don’t want to see any of the horses go to slaughter???!!
    Wonder if a petition to cull the horses would reach the same amount….

    • Thanks for your comment. Just wanted to mention here that although ESRD ultimately decided not to opt for experimental contraception this year, we will consider it again the next time there is a need to manage the feral horse population. This year, a variety of factors – including the experimental nature of the technology, the potential cost, and the tight timeframe we were looking at – ultimately made this an unfeasible option.

  19. “Cougars in particular can be very good predators of horses, especially male cougars,” said Mark Boyce, a University of Alberta biologist who has studied cougars in the area for 10 years. “We had one large male, a 180-pound male, that in one year killed 17 wild horses, five elk, four moose and only two deer.”
    Kevin Van Tighem, a longtime Alberta biologist and conservationist, said while the horses aren’t native, there is evidence they are naturalizing into the landscape.
    “They aren’t having the devastating impacts that they have in other areas,” he said, referring to concerns that the horses can overgraze or trample the grasslands.
    Van Tighem, who has written several books on carnivores, said overgrazing is not happening because of predation.
    “They are being hunted by wolves,” he said.
    Part of the problem is that the province is allowing third-party bounties to kill wolves in the same area, he said.
    “So that wolf population is under constant assault,” he said. “Every winter, we lose whole packs and large fragments of packs because there’s an awful lot of activity focused on those wolves.”
    If the province believes there aren’t enough predators to keep the horses in check, he said there’s a natural solution.
    “Let the predators do their job instead of killing them off,” he said.

  20. There appears to be a lot of “scientific fact” posted on this blog that has been posted by the opponents of feral horse management. So, I would like to first start with the assertion that the Sundre horses are directly related to those horses of Spanish origion. The proper scientific terminology is the IIberian marker.
    First, you may want to look at the work of Dr. Gus Cothran, Now of Texas A & M and formerly of the University of Kentucky. Dr. Cothran is one of the pre-eminent equine geneticists in the world, and has published a number of peer-reviewed articles in this area. Yes, there is a marker (the “Iberian” marker) that is contained in some North American feral equines (but never been proven in the Sundre horses) which does indicate a genetic tie to those breeds which were originally bred in Spain (more specifically the Iberian peninsula). Hence, the distant genetic tie to those “Spanish” horses brought over by Columbus and Cortez to horses in Pryor mountains.
    However, you may be surprised to know that any quarter horse will contain the same genetic marker. Those of foundation breeding (before introduction of thoroughbred lines) will likely have a greater prevalence of these markers that any line of feral horses. This should make common sense; the Spanish horses of Mexico and Texas were the foundation breeding stock for cow-bred lines of quarter horses.
    So – an incidence of the Iberian marker in the Sundre horses (which is not admitted) could be the result of two disparate occurrences.
    First, somehow a small band of pure blood spanish mestengo (the spanish word for mustang – which a literal translation means “stray animal) managed to keep their pure bloodlines throughout all their native American ownership, escape to the foothills of Alberta, and somehow not cross with the non-spanish breeds of horse that either escaped or were released into this area.
    Or someone let out a quarter horse stud and it crossed with a few feral mares.
    Both of these alternatives are conjecture on my part. However, I would have to surmise that a probability analysis would likely determine that the second alternative is the most likely.

  21. And now given that the opponents to feral horse management have opened this topic up on “scientific fact”, I would like to add some further observations. I would like to point out to the readers the following “research paper”.
    http://members.shaw.ca/save-wild-horses/Research%20Paper%20-%20R.%20Alison.htm
    The “facts” and “conclusions” contained in this “research paper” are cited extensively by those opposed to feral horse management. So I undertook a review of these conclusions to ensure that the facts that were being presented were indeed correct.
    Upon first read of the contents I was astounded. Indeed, if the statements of fact in this “research paper” are indeed correct, this sets the entire discourse around the feral horse debate upside down. My first course of business was a search on the academic databases to see what else ” Dr. Alison” has published. I was unable to find another mention or cite of “Dr. Alison” anywhere in the scientific or academic databases on this or any related subject. Fearing I had made a mistake I gave Gus Cothran’s assistant a call, and her independent review of the literature that was available to Texas A & M came to the same conclusion (that would be Gus Cothran – the the Texas A & M equine geneticist referred to above).
    I tried phoning the number given on this “research paper” to talk to the author, “Dr. Alison” directly. Phone number out of order. And a quick search finds that there is no contact information for a Robert M. Alison in Orilla, Ontario, the name and address given on this research paper.
    Having been unable to ascertain the identity of the author nor contact him directly, my next step was a review this piece of literature, and to try and “note-up” the references contained therein. You see, when someone publishes an academic work, referencing is the critical process of citing authorities for various statements of fact provided by the author(s). This greatly enhances the ability to “peer review” – that is other professional or academics can review or “note-up” the citations given, and establish the veracity of the information contained therein and draw their own conclusions. This turned out to be a frustrating exercise as apparently “Mr. Alison” did not follow any of the basic conventions of the Harvard Referencing system. From my reading,nNone of his statements of fact or conclusions seem to be either directly or indirectly supported by the academic authorities referenced.
    There are a number of references to support Mr. Alison’s conclusions referenced as (Howlett, pers. comm.). Ah – personal communications with a Mr. Howlett (well – at least Mr. Alison got that citationn correct so it can be noted up). Referenced at the end of the article “Steve Howlett, a wild Mustang specialist at Dugald, Manitoba”. This appears to be promising. However, I am disappointed to find that no educational or research facilities exist in Dugald. The University of Manitoba does not show a Steven Howlett on its faculty – nor for that matter any other educational institution in Manitoba. A Google search indicates that Steven Howlett has a website. All about his horse “Shandi” – who appears to be a “mustang”. And the content of the website contains the information that this particilar horse (who appears to have been captured near the Sundre area) has been genetically tested and registered as a mustang. Further, it is asseted that DNA analysis was performed. However, this horse died in 2004 which is about 2 years the process of mitochondrial DNA tests in equines had been perfected.
    Trying to validate these findings, I composed an email to the 4 “Spanish Horse\Mustang” breed registries to get the required information. (As an aside – all 4 of these people were extremely helpful in helping me determine the validity of these statements of Mr. Howlett. I would especially like to thank Marye Ann Thompson of the Spanish Mustang Registry for her assistance “above and beyond the call” and putting me in direct touch with the other three registry personnel.) Interestingly enough, none of these organizations have never registered a Canadian captured horse?
    So, what I am left with is this. A Mr. Howlett owned a “mustang” and that appears to be his claim to being an “expert” in the field. He had a “DNA analysis” perfomed and had the horse registered in a registry. However, this horse in not registered in any of the recognized. Mr. Howlett apparently made a few statemets to a “Mr. Alison” in a phone call, and this “Mr. Alison” typed up a “research study” that he then posted on the Internet. But such “research study” is not contained anywhere else in the scientific or academic literature. And now this is considered those opposed to feral horse mangement to be “irrefutable scientific proof” (Mr. Howlett’s and Mr. Alison’s words) that the Sundre feral horses are the direct descendants of the mestengo of old and contain the pure Spanish lineage of this type (again author’s words).
    I would be more than happy form those intersted if they can provide any peer reviewed sources which would rebut this conclusion. In other words, “prove it”.

  22. The email from Don Livingston re: the final count numbers-March flyover 2013, ESRD included as unbiased counters were 3 other individuals by invitation from ESRD

    “They are done. I think you have the final numbers from Calgary, Bob flew both days. I don’t have the exact numbers there.
    For here we had 613 head for the Sundre and Clearwater Management zones. This is the area we have the historical numbers from 1982 from so we always compare apples and apples. We did count an additional 128 head in the Nordegg and Brazeau units so that would give our area a total of 741 head. SO I think with Calgary numbers we’re at around 981 head. Like I said when we talk about the traditional number around Sundre it was always between 200 and 250, so the number we would be comparing that to for this yrs. Count would be the 613 as that number comes from the same area that was always counted out of Sundre, not the total of 741 that included the ones from up around Nordegg.However, Nordegg/Brazeau count is excluded so the total count is 853.

    The other relevant number is the count area for Zones 1,2,3 and 4 is 8,500 square kms.

    This is the equivalent of one horse per sq km. Far, far too few.

    Stake holders of the committee, who are in it for the financial gain. What is the cost of the privilege to graze or hunt on public lands? Ranchers loss is perhaps more in predator or sickness in cattle, not over grazing. Big game numbers and location trends are fluctuating due to predation stress. There are more reported Elk nuisance in hay stacks by land owners than horses. Big game seek a safe area where humans dwell to ward predators off not to mention easy feed access.
    Thanks
    A R

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