Spring is trying its best to make its appearance, however, winter is still trying to hold on a little longer. Roaming the hills the other day we started at plus 11C and ended up in a blizzard. All the creeks and rivulets were full of rushing water as the sun rapidly melted a lot of the snow. The horses were seeking the warm hillsides and had left the bottom meadows because of the torrents of water. We found this stallion and his herd soaking up the sunshine.
This yearling and his family sit high above us calmly watching us drive past. We are starting to find a few new foals with the herds. Although this appears to be early, maybe they know something we don’t. These newborns are doing well.
Just a little further along we found our beautiful boy that we call the “Black Stallion” and his herd wandering through another area where little melting had occurred. Here the forage is still a little harder to find but as you see the horses are in excellent condition for this time of year.
This beautiful stallion has been roaming by himself all winter despite the fact we have seen other bachelor bands in the area. So we have named him “Lonesome.”
WHOAS has another wonderful video of our Alberta wild horses produced by Through the Lens Images we are pleased to share with you. Enjoy!
The life of our Alberta wild horses is not an easy one. They face many obstacles and events as they attempt to survive in what is sometimes a hostile environment throughout their life. We found this 2 – 3 week old filly looking healthy and nursing off of mom as she foraged for feed. A fresh snowfall had again blanketed the land making it a little harder for mom and the herd to find food and the foal to stay warm.
The foals from last spring are doing well as you can see by these three who were resting in the protection of the trees. No matter what age though injuries can be caused by a misstep or a kick.
Young studs are always testing each other and most times the skirmishes end peacefully, but occasionally one of the combatants will get injured. Most times too the horse will recover. Occasionally however the injuries can be severe and the chances, as is often the case in Nature, of the animal surviving can be slim. Many other factors affect life of the horses as well, from old age to severe weather, such was the case in the winter of 2013/14.
Some officials would like the public to believe that the horses have no natural predators. For those of us that spend considerable time travelling throughout wild horse country, documenting the horses we know this is not true. In fact one University of Alberta researcher who had collared a male cougar, documented that that it’s main prey was the wild horses. Bears and wolves if given the right opportunity will also take down an old, young or injured horse.
Most times though the wolf and the horse co-exist, such as seen here where this wolf walks past a very calm and healthy young stud.
On our travels last week we noticed ravens, the messengers of the forest, circling in the distance. We know from experience that this signals something dead. We went to find out what it may be that attracted them. As we approached, even a bald eagle singled his displeasure. When we arrived on the scene we found a wild horse mare who appeared to be old and likely killed by wolves. All the telltale signs were there to indicate this, including lots of wolf tracks.
We know this is just part of Nature and have come to accept this fact. We decided to set up our trail cam to see who came to feast. We left it there for a few days and just want to show you all the animals and birds that utilize what Mother Nature provides.
Of course there were many ravens. Those sitting on the ground feeding; those sitting in the tree keeping watch, and then those circling high above.
The bald eagle came flying in to take over and push the ravens out.
The camera also caught golden eagles coming in several times. Can you see the second one on the carcass?
During the nighttime the camera caught many different visitors. They included the wolves, foxes, coyotes and even a glimpse of a fisher, which is a very elusive, small nocturnal predator.
It was very telling by sifting through the hundreds of photos, the hierarchy of all the predators photographed.
The foxes would sneak in whenever the wolves moved away from feeding taking their turn. The first picture shows two of them arguing over who goes first!
The wolves would also move in during the night with two different groups. We believe they are from the same pack. These pictures show the group with the large black wolf.
The wolves would also visit the kill in the early morning and then back again in the late afternoon. As the black wolf moves off, the pictures show it did not take long for the ravens to come back in.
This young wolf came by himself and upset at the ravens, leapt in to chase them away.
Some say the horses do not belong out there. But after spending years documenting and observing them, it is obvious to us that they have become an integral part of the ecosystem as it exists on today’s landscape. Even in death they play a role. And everything has its place, including the wolves who are also persecuted.
We are still grateful to the positive message that CBC documentary presented about our Alberta wild horses and WHOAS work to protect and save them. We have received the YouTube link to the program and if you click below you will be able to watch it at your leisure.
Although winter out west in the foothills is far from over, it has not been hard for the horses. We found White Spirit and his band roaming through the frozen muskeg meadows.
WHOAS continues with our work with both the adoption program and contraception project. We were very interested to receive the following video from the Animal Fertility Vaccine Information Centre out of the United States.
We find it encouraging that the BLM (government) in the United States has formed alliances with nearly 40 wild horse advocacy groups that support this science-based approach. They, too, strongly believe that contraception is a far better management solution for their wild horses as we believe it is up here. With so many different groups adopting the use of a contraception program, the evidence and research is building to show that it is working. That is why the BLM is expanding their efforts to work with these groups.
We hope along with this information, along with our own research and the results of our contraception program, that the AEP and Alberta government will approve expansion of the program in future years.
As we tour the west country checking on the welfare of the horses we see, the conditions this year keep changing from one extreme to the other. Two weeks of chinook and this boy was feeding on bare ground. Now to a week of more snow and minus 25C! Only in Alberta…
We were delighted, despite all the different winter conditions that the wild horses have endured, that this very young foal, obviously born in the fall, is doing well. With the lack of deep snow this year, the horses are able to wander far and wide to find forage. This has made them a little bit harder to find in order to observe and photograph them.
As you know WHOAS continues to take care of some wild horses at our handling facility. On Sunday, January 22, we had a team of volunteers show to help load and unload a supply of hay for the four boys we have at our site. Many hands made quick work of this task. We want to thank all those that helped out.
We have three of these four boys ready for adoption. We are including a video highlighting these boys and hope you might consider coming out to visit and adopt one of them.
We are grateful to the landowners that are having problems with these young stallions, that cause a problem for them, for calling WHOAS to help with their situation. Without this intervention, the outcome for these horses may have been far worse.
We would like to introduce you to our newest “trouble-maker”, a young boy we have named “Bernie”.
For all the wild horse supporters, we have just received confirmation that there will be no horse capture this winter. Work is still underway by Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) staff to formulate a long-term management strategy for our Alberta wild horses.
WHOAS has always been, and continues to be, opposed to any indiscriminate cull of our Alberta wild horses. We will keep on expressing this to Alberta government officials and hope that there will never be another cull of these beautiful creatures. They deserve to be free and wild.
Winter in wild horse country has been relatively easy on the horses so far this year. The cold snap has relented to the warm chinook winds making life a little easier for all the wildlife and horses. The snow pack is not too deep and so far has stayed soft allowing the horses to paw through it quite easy to find forage. Some of the backroads that we travel to visit the horses however are a little more difficult to travel and we are unable to get into all the areas we could in warmer months. This has also allowed the horses to range far and wide to find suitable feed. This makes locating the horses a little more challenging – out come the snowshoes and cross country skies!
One day travelling along we came across this white boy and his mare. He was featured in November 2016 of our current calendar. We had not been able to locate him all last summer and fall and it was so nice to finally see him and his family again looking so healthy. He has certainly grown.
We know this mare also very well and her herd has another white mare quite similar to her. She is definitely pregnant and again is doing so well this winter. She is a wise mare and leads her herd to the best winter feeding areas.
This young fellow, an offspring of the stallion we call “Socks”, is only three years old and on his own for the first time. He is wandering by himself and is doing quite fine in his lonely life right now. We know of some other young bachelors in the area and we hope to soon see him join up with these other boys. If you look closely though he has a branch tangled in his forelock – I’m so handsome! He will soon lose this as he continues to forage for food. You can also see in this picture that the snow pack is not that deep.
You might remember this young mare from our 2015 calendar with her adornment.
We first saw her on January 12, 2014, a young mare seemingly on her own. That year we saw her later that year accompanied by a young sorrel stallion.
The two were in a deep valley not too far away from where we had first seen her. Despite all our travels we did not see her again until just recently.
It was three years later to the day and we saw her again – January 12th, 2017! Her coat and face had lightened up considerably which often happens to grey coloured horses. It was exhilarating to us to meet up with her again. She was with a different stallion – what a beautiful pair. They stood so calmly in the sunshine and let us admire them for quite a long time. These are the moments that are always etched in your mind and heart.
We have updated our Gallery with scenes of wildies this winter. Click on this page at the top of the website to open these pictures. Enjoy!