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Premier Alison Redford and Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) Minister Robin Campbell of the Alberta Government has gone ahead and issued capture licenses for 200 of Alberta’s Wild Horses. For almost every single horse this means – KILLING. To prevent this SLAUGHTER, we are asking for your support by way of sending them an email. The last official count conducted March 2013 showed that the population was down to a mere 853. This number is getting dangerously low to sufficiently maintain a healthy gene pool which research suggests requires 1,500-2,000 horses in the foothills area. This is URGENT as captures must be completed by March 1, 2014 – unless we can stop it. PLEASE GIVE YOUR OPINION – YOUR VOICE COUNTS NO MATTER YOUR AGE OR WHERE YOU’RE FROM!! These wild horses are part of our western heritage. Please click on SEND EMAIL to send your message:
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WHY WE SHOULD SAVE THE WILD HORSES
Wild horses like any wildlife species, do impact the environment, but due to their natural behaviour their impact is minimal, even beneficial. During snowfalls they create pathways for other wildlife making it easier for travel. As well, they break up ice at the water edge which enables weaker animals to access it. The simple act of a horse living helps the smaller and weaker wild animals survive the harsh winters they face here in Alberta. Horses also spread seeds and plants and in fact speed up plant regrowth and establishment.
The area where the remaining wild horses in Alberta exist is an area of crown land that supports the timber industry and government issued free-range cattle grazing licenses. These interest groups can complain about the horses specifically because they are listed under the “stray animal” category and these complaints are handled differently than the wild population complaints. As a result, the conflicting groups who use the land have been successful in getting the ESRD to issue capture licenses. In 2011 more than 200 horses were trapped, the overwhelming majority ending up at the slaughter house and their meat distributed for consumption.
NOT ENOUGH FOOD FOR CATTLE AND OTHER WILD UNGULATES – The ranchers who use the crown land for their grazing cattle complain the cows have to compete with the horses for the food. Horse and cattle do eat many of the same grasses however horses don’t have the stomaches required to digest the roots of woody stems as is the case of the cattle. Horse only eat the growth above ground which is beneficial in that it creates a pruning effect and young plants will send out even more shoots. Horses are “wandering” grazers while cattle in contrast stay in one area longer and tend to overgraze eating the whole plant (including the roots) which in turn takes longer for the growth to recover. There are more than 8 million acres of grazing land in Alberta that is accessible by permission for grazing cattle. The wild horses are only left with the crown land to graze since fencing prevents them from expanding their range. If food really is short why then doesn’t the Alberta Government cap the land leases to the cattle? Besides the complaints given by the ranchers, to date there is no scientific evidence put forth by this government that proves the horses are taking food from any other animal. In fact it has been shown that horses actually improve the grass growth – exactly the opposite of what this government has claimed!!
LOGGERS COMPLAIN – The loggers complain the horses trample their seedlings. Animals by nature will take the path of least obstacle but real plant growth disruption will only occur if the plant is actually pulled out by the roots. Trampling will occur wherever plants are located in an animal pathway but by nature and given a choice, animals will choose the path of least resistance. These loggers are using crown land for their own gain and if growth was their real concern ,why not just stop cutting down our trees?
ROAD SAFETY -One of the arguments the ESRD defended their decision to cull the horses was attributed to safety on the roads. I have heard this can be a problem from people who live in this area. In the winter, horses are reluctant to pass through the larger snowbanks built up by the snow ploughs. There is a real danger for them getting stuck as they tend to be body heavy. Horses can become disoriented on a road looking to find another place to graze and can become somewhat stranded trying to find an unfenced area to enter. This can be a real problem when the horses have left the safety of the crown land boundary. In this case, it is absolutely too dangerous for people and horses. Unlike deer who can leap high fences, horses cannot. Relocation is a real solution to this problem and people should report such activity. I think every animal out there is smart enough to use the road at some point. It’s the path of least resistance so when the complaint is being made by the loggers is this really valid? Maybe, but what of all the other animals? I have seen animal tracks of all sorts on the roads. How about cows in the summer who really have no speed what-so-ever and you have to wait for them to get off the road? Although I did search for a report involving deaths due to vehicle accidents caused by horses, I didn’t find one. I’m sure this has happened but I’m fairly certain the number must be very low or it would be readily found. I did find some insurance statistics: Numbers of Animals killed by Cars in Alberta was 16,000+ in 2008 and 13,500 involved deer. Should it not just be common sense to drive with caution when in the areas that are populated with wildlife? As long as we drive where there are animals, such accidents will continue to happen.
NO PREDATORS -The ESRD also claims there are no predators. Really? If this is so, why have I seen this evidence first hand and why then does the ESRD continue to issue and advertise hunting and trapping licenses for cougars, bears and wolves? All of these natural predators are found in the Sundre area where these horses are going to be captured. This is not to mention the harsh winters these animals face which is another real test. These horses have survived despite these odds so why do we feel we have to interfere??? There are limits here imposed by nature.
OVER-POPULATED – Sometimes it is necessary to control populations of animals, in this case however, the numbers just don’t warrant intervention especially on a a land mass this size. If you look at the average size farm in Alberta you could support the ENTIRE wild horse population on less than 3 farms!!! Where is the scientific evidence even suggesting this land cannot support even 853 horses or that their very presence is causing some other animals to starve??? The area in question is larger than PEI – roughly 7770 square kilometres or 1.9 million acres. To say over-populated on any scale can only be regarded as ridiculous.
With only 853 left at the last arial count in March 2013, the figures given by the government stating recently of about 1000 has not been substantiated. When it was proposed to do another count, the government declined citing expense. When it was proposed to them that it would be conducted free-of-charge, again they declined. How then can they just throw out a number? Even if there were however 1000…in this area that’s a ridiculously small number especially when you consider the 10′s of thousands of cattle that graze there in the summer months. It might seem like there are many but I liken it to the polar bears near Churchill, MB. If you live in Churchill it might seem like there are 1000′s of polar bears when in fact there are not. That is the location they all congregate since that is where the ice forms first and where they can go out to get their food. The people of who live near Sundre see the wild horses and think there are so many but that’s where a large number of them congregate in the winter. In the summer they spread out across the land and few are seen, especially in the hot summer months since they can access meadows higher up to graze and it’s cooler.
This government hasn’t given one legitimate reason to defend this wild horse slaughter.
Good luck with the repopulation program of bison to the Banff National Park. Maybe soon repopulating the wild horses in Alberta will be the only way that these animals will at last be protected here. For the record, it has been well documented that these horses are difficult to train and if not immediately, overwhelmingly soon after capture end up going to slaughter. Sadly, many of the mares at this time of year will be pregnant. If they are not captured the winter will dictate whether the foal comes to term. This is another way nature dictates population – not man.
As one observer put it – “Considering the size of Alberta and the fact that the natural species of this province have been forced to live on marginal land, how is it that one cannot find it unconscionable that the Alberta Provincial policy is making those species accommodate export producers (beef, timber)? But wait – Now THAT isn’t even enough?!
Another opinion: If wild horses continue to be classified as “feral” and dealt with using the “stray animal act” and found through sound scientific research that their numbers exceed sustainable populations, then wouldn’t it be logical that like cats and dogs, after capture they are put up for adoption? The price of the adoption should cover only the cost of capture and handling, similar to other animals that are treated under this same act.
Despite countless petitions, numerous protests and well over 15,000 emails and letters, the government still has plans to go ahead with the capture licences to get rid of 200 wild horses. No input from the public has yet been even considered…no one received a reply to their inquires – just an announcement was made that the deal had already been done and that the licenses had been distributed….to ranchers. Leaks regarding this matter have been rumour for some time now. The printed documents released claimed the board was formed in September yet the report is dated with April 2013. Does this mean the fully biased group consulted decided actually back in April? This has been denied but the paper work is suspicious at best when you look at who was on that consulting board…loggers, ranchers, sawmill, RCMP, a vet, Fish and Wildlife guy, few others but not a botanist in the group and certainly a far cry from a balanced or scientific board. The most ridiculous item cited in the report is the very last line “Workshops and open houses are a waste of time” This government has forgotten who they work for….or maybe not.
Information gathered for the above is appreciated and supplied from the following sources:
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