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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.
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.
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.