First stage of Wild Horse Campaign a Success


Photo by Duane Starr

But it’s Only a Temporary Reprieve as we Prepare for Stage Two.

Zoocheck’s 18 month investigation and review of the Alberta government’s assertions that wild horses are overpopulating the landscape and causing ecological damage has found no scientific evidence supporting those claims.

doc coverAfter reviewing all publicly available materials, as well as substantial quantities of additional documentation, including letters, notes, reports and other materials, obtained through a multitude of provincial Freedom of Information requests, we found no evidence that horses are causing damage to the rangeland. Just to be sure we did not miss anything, we also conducted site visits to observe free-roaming horses and their habitats. All of this research was then reviewed and compiled into a report, Preliminary Technical Review of Management of Free-Roaming (“Feral”) Horses in Alberta’s Six Foothills Equine Zones.

The expert report and other materials were forwarded to Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips in December to inform her 2016 capture permit decision-making process. As a result, for the first time in many years there was no cull permitted this spring. This is a significant step forward.

The report reveals that there is no scientific evidence supporting the capture of additional wild horses in Alberta for ecological reasons. Furthermore, government officials are unable to point to any evidence of rangeland damage attributable to wild horses.

Alberta Government representatives say they want to ensure that some wild horses remain on the landscape, but prior to the release of our report, captures occurred every year in the absence of scientific justification for removals and with no regard as to how many horses are necessary to ensure the genetic integrity of the free-roaming horse populations.

According to the Alberta Government there are now less than 800 free-roaming horses in all of Alberta and they are fragmented into sub-populations, numbers that experts say are far too low to ensure a viable long term population of wild horses.

Wild horse populations in other parts of Canada are protected, but Alberta’s wild horses are seemingly being managed toward extinction. They have already been nearly extirpated in the Brazeau Equine Zone due to government sanctioned captures. This kind of politically driven management is dangerous and must not continue.

After the success of the first stage of our campaign, the next step is to bring some scientific reality onto the government’s Feral Horse Advisory Committee to ensure that Alberta develops a scientifically driven management plan that will ensure a strong genetic population of wild horses in Alberta for future generations to enjoy.

Zoocheck has requested a position on the advisory committee to ensure that science informs the process rather than the existing values and often erroneous beliefs of special interest groups that led the previous government to needlessly reduce the number of wild horses. To date, the committee has been dominated by and made up of mostly industry driven user groups and others who want to drastically reduce the number of horses. For this reason it is essential to inject some science, critical thinking and animal welfare perspectives onto the committee.

How you can help:

Contact Alberta Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips and ask her to invite Zoocheck onto the Feral Horse Advisory Committee and to not issue any permits for the roundup of Alberta’s wild horses this year.


Photo by Duane Starr

Leave a comment