Alberta’s Last Wild Horses, Heading toward extinction?
Behind closed doors and away from the public eye, Government of Alberta staff have developed their latest wild horse management plan. A draft of the plan is reportedly now on Minister Jason Nixon’s desk waiting for approval.
If past plans are any indication, wild horse fans, friends and supporters should be concerned, especially with the results of the latest wild horse counts being in.
The Government’s own count of Alberta’s wild horse population shows a recent, alarming decrease in horse numbers to unsustainable levels. A separate count recently conducted by several NGOs confirmed this precipitous population drop. The current situation could be a precursor to extinction.
The annual horse counts show there may be less than 1,200 Alberta wild horses left throughout the entire province. They are spread across six designated equine zones, with horses in one of the zones already being extirpated. According to the Equine Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature a minimum of 2,000 horses per region are necessary to ensure the genetic diversity necessary to ensure wild horse survival.
Despite there being no organized culling operations in the Alberta foothills (home to the most accessible wild horse population) during the past 5 years, horse numbers have fallen. The culling of the past may have already driven them down to an unsustainable level and increased their vulnerability to additional pressures, both natural and human-caused. Without real protection, they may not survive.
It’s an urgent time for wild horses, but the Government of Alberta still doesn’t seem to have an interest in protecting them. In fact, just like in the past, they have welcomed input and information from business, including the ranching and resource extraction communities, who have historically been hostile to wild horses, see them as a nuisance or as competition to cattle. Wild horse biologists and scientists, animal welfare professionals and others with relevant knowledge and expertise who are neutral or supportive of wild horses are underrepresented or absent. This flawed process is unscientific and heavily biased against wild horses.
How You Can Help
Alberta’s wild horses may now be heading toward extinction and, if we don’t act soon, lost forever in the Alberta foothills. Please send an email today to Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Parks, Jason Nixon, letting him know:
- aware of the dire situation of Alberta’s wild horses and their recent dramatic drop in numbers,
- you recognize the historical, cultural and ecological value of keeping horses in the wild landscapes of Alberta,
- you want to see an open, transparent, comprehensive public consultation with legitimate involvement of local, provincial, national and international wild horse biologists and scientists, animal welfare professionals and others with relevant expertise, as well as residents of Alberta,
- you want Alberta to develop meaningful wild horse protections that will ensure wild horses roam free in perpetuity.
Be sure to cc your letter to Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta. Remind him that letting wild horse populations fade into oblivion, by carrying on with the same old patterns of behaviour, is unnecessary, unscientific, unwanted and controversial. The majority of the Albertan public support having wild horses on the landscape, so Premier Kenney and his government should act on their behalf.
Sample email text for Minister Jason Nixon and Premier Jason Kenney
Minister of Environment and Parks, Jason Nixon
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney
Dear Minister Jason Nixon:
I have become aware that wild horse numbers in Alberta have dropped to unsustainable levels. Recent wild horse counts indicate there may be as few as 1,200 wild horses left in all of Alberta, a number so low it could mean the horses are on their way to extinction.
According to the Equine Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature a minimum of 2,000 horses per region are necessary to ensure the genetic diversity necessary to ensure wild horse survival. Something must be done now to ensure the protection and survival of Alberta’s wild horse populations.
I am also very concerned that the Government of Alberta, in the development of wild horse management plans, continues to consult primarily with industry and other parties, who have long opposed wild horses on the landscape. This very biased approach has almost certainly been a factor in the development of the current dire circumstances now faced by Alberta’s wild horses.
I urge you to take immediate steps to:
• initiate a legitimate, balanced, open, transparent, comprehensive public consultation process with meaningful, fair, involvement from local, provincial, national and international wild horse biologists and scientists, animal welfare professionals and others with relevant expertise, as well as residents of Alberta;
• recognize the historical, cultural and ecological value of keeping horses in the wild landscapes of Alberta, and
• develop meaningful wild horse protections that will ensure wild horses roam free in perpetuity.
The mistakes of the past must not be allowed to continue or we will lose this important part of Alberta’s heritage and a national treasure for all Canadians. Please do the right thing and act now.