A New Year

A new year is upon us and the winter so far has been fairly kind to the wild horses. In our travels we are finding the horses to be in excellent condition. This beautiful boy was in an open muskeg meadow where the horses are able to find exposed grass under the bushes. So far there is very little snow throughout the foothills area and the horses are able to move around readily in order to find suitable forage. We certainly hope more snow is yet to come in order to diminish the lingering effects of last year’s drought and help prevent another one this summer.

Along with the lack of snow there has been plenty of warm temperatures and sunshine which also helps keep the horses in good condition. These two mares are soaking up the afternoon sunshine on an open hillside.

Blue skies, warm temperatures and an open hillside to feed upon. So beautiful and tranquil.

This beauty blends into her surroundings and being in foal we hope that the rest of the winter months are kind to the her and the other horses, enabling the pregnant mares to have strong foals come spring.

WHOAS and HAWS along with other horse advocacy groups are working hard to ensure that the needless persecution of the horses by those that oppose them being on the landscape stops. Both WHOAS and HAWS are part of the Feral Horse Advisory Committee (FHAC) which is an Alberta government led committee composed of those who are deemed to be stakeholders and tasked with the purpose of coming up with a population management strategy. Meetings continue to discuss what this plan should entail and to try to come to a consensus on the future of the wild horses. One of the biggest roadblocks is coming to an agreement on the number of horses that will be allowed in each of the equine zones.

Some of the cattle lease holders are unwilling to compromise stating their old and unsubstantiated argument that the horses are taking grazing away from their cattle. WHOAS has carried out our own observations throughout the years showing that there is plenty of grass available to the cattle, to the horses and to the other wildlife until the cattle have been out on these leases for a period of time. One of our big observations is that you can go into other areas of the province where there are no wild horses and by the end of summer the cattle have eaten the grass down to the ground. So we say quit blaming the horses for being the culprits in the equine zones where the wild horse management plan is proposed.

WHOAS does agree that a sound, unbiased management plan is needed.

We wish to see the heavily pregnant mare pictured above being able to roam free and wild with her foal. Here she has her beautiful stallion standing guard but pushing her along to keep up with the rest of the herd.

The point that WHOAS is trying to get across is that the horses cannot be blamed for destruction of the ecosystem where they live. There are too many other contributing factors including climate change, drought, industrial use, logging, a substantial increase in recreational use and the cattle. We believe we must all share in the responsibility of taking care of this precious environment. There needs to be more thorough research into what effect if any the horses are having on the environment. Alternately there also has be research into what other activities, including cattle grazing are also having on the ecosystem. Its not good enough to keep doing the same things over and over again, based on old biased information.

One of the most important issues WHOAS has been advocating for in the 20 years since our inception is that the wild horses of Alberta be given a distinct designation and governing legislation. We have always agreed that the population must be humanely and properly managed. The term “feral” which is currently used to describe them by the government is derogatory and hinders the process of having them properly managed and protected. Several stakeholders have agreed and put forth the point that they are in fact “naturalized wildlife.” This means that they have lived and reproduced in the wild for several decades untouched by humans. Currently they are managed under the Stray Animal Act which is totally inappropriate since they are not strays and belong to no one. By considering them as naturalized wildlife they could be given a distinct identity such as the Alberta Mountain Horse. This would enable them to be given their own distinct legislation in order to manage them responsibly and protect them. They have a right to live there too.

The other point is that no one can blame one species, including humans, for the degradation that is taking place in the ecosystems of our Alberta foothills. In fact, the six equine zones represent such a very small part of the total public lands here in Alberta.

This young colt needs your help in order to remain free and wild.

WHOAS is committed to assuring that wild horses like this mare and her little filly will always be given the chance to stay free and wild. We will do all that is in our power along with groups like HAWS to make sure this happens. We will not waiver!

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