The Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) has reformed the Feral Horses Advisory Committee (FHAC) to come up with a management strategy for the wild horses on the eastern slopes of our Alberta foothills. The committee was first formed in 2013 but fell by the wayside with little being accomplished. It was during this time that WHOAS entered in an agreement (memorandum of understanding – MOU) with the government to establish our conception program and adoption program. This all came to an end in 2019 when the MOU expired.
In this reformation it is vital that any decisions or management strategies be based on current scientific research and knowledge. WHOAS had supported research being done by the University of Saskatchewan, but due to a lack of support by the AEP it was left in limbo. Now we are hopeful that going forward this and other research projects can be undertaken with support by the government.
One of the positives of this committee is the inclusion of a representative from the Stony Nakoda First Nations. We believe that the indigenous knowledge of the horses and the ecosystems they live in are key in future decisions.
As things progress with the committee and the management decisions being made WHOAS will continue to keep you up-to-date.
In February of 2021, the AEP did a census of horse numbers in all six of the wild horse designated zones. This was not done in 2020 but we do have the numbers from 2019.
Here are the counts and the comparisons from previously.
Zone 1 – Elbow – 2019 – 88; 2021 – 81
Zone 2 – Ghost – 2019 – 379; 2021 – 313
Zone 3 – Sundre – 2019 – 981; 2021 – 763
Zone 4 – Clearwater – 2019 – 101; 2021 – 118
Zone 5 – Nordegg – 2019 – 114; 2021 – 39
Zone 6 – Brazeau – 2019 – 16; 2021 – 0
Totals: 2019 = 1,679 horses actually counted; 2021 = 1,314
The 2021 count represents a 22% decline in horses counted. The only area showing any increase was the Clearwater but we want to point out that extensive clearcutting has been done therefore making any horses or any other wildlife more visible from the air.
There are many reasons the population of horses has seen a reduction but includes increased predation from cougar, bears and wolves. Environmental factors also play a part as well as the dramatic increase in land use by recreationists which puts a lot of pressure on the horses.
The AEP has indicated that they are committed to the wild horses remaining on the landscape thus the need for sound scientific data to base any decisions on a management strategy.
This very beautiful and obviously very pregnant mare is due to foal any day now. We hope that her offspring will be able to live free and wild.