This year’s minimum number count observed 880 feral equines in Alberta’s foothills, approximately 100 fewer than were seen last year. That 880 represents the number of horses physically seen, which means the actual number of animals will be higher.
The counts are done by flying over areas where herds are common with a rotary-wing aircraft (helicopter). Helicopters are used rather than fixed-wing because they are more manoeuvrable, which greatly enhances the counters’ ability to spot all the horses, especially those in a group. The flights were done over five days in March because of the large area involved, which is divided into equine zones; some zones took more than one flight to fully assess. Each area flown is tracked by GPS and every herd is logged with a GPS waypoint. Media and members of the Feral Horse Advisory Committee took part in the flights.
While fewer horses were seen this year, significant population increases have been the trend over the past decade. Knowing the trends helps ESRD effectively manage the province’s rangeland to ensure the native grasses are healthy and available to all users. The numbers help us figure out future management options and provide important information for the advisory committee as it considers where to target management efforts, and how to measure the success of options that are undertaken.
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