Getting Ready For Adoption

Remember little Granite from a just a year ago. He was born into our resident herd from Babe and sired by Porterro. He has lived with us this past year, growing strong and healthy and was now ready to be gelded before going to his new home.

Here he is, now a year old and looking so handsome. The horses we are going to have gelded, we stand in our handling chute in order to administer a sedative. They are then led out into a pen and we wait for the sedative to fully take hold. At that point our veterinarian administer the anesthesia drug in order to make the horses go totally a sleep in order to do the castration surgery.

Here he is being prepped for the surgery.

We are so fortunate to have a highly trained team of veterinarian and vet techs from the University of Calgary come out to geld all the young studs we rescue. Here the team monitors his heart rate, breathing and oxygen levels during the whole process. Veterinarian students also take part in this as a hands on learning experience and to enhance their skills before they go into their own practices. WHOAS volunteers also take part in order to hold the horse steady and in the proper position to allow the surgery to go quickly and safely.

All horses that we geld are also branded with our own brand, given their first and later a second dose of vaccines, which includes West Nile and they also have their wolf teeth removed. An anti-inflammatory injection is also administered at this time as well as a bug creame being applied to their incisions to keep the bugs off and the horses healthy and safe.

Surgery done and he is slowly starting to move about. Young Granite has been adopted and will move onto his new forever and loving home as soon as he recovers.

Here is Harley being sedated. He is a 3 year old and has been with only a short time.

Getting sleepy. He is a beautiful boy and is still awaiting someone to adopt him and give him a good home. One thing about these Alberta Mountain Horses, is that they make extremely loyal and reliable horses for their human partners. They make great trail horses and can excel in any other discipline their new humans wish to take them. They are extremely smart and coming from the wild they have no human vices to impede their development.

The sun was very warm and with Harley still under the effects of the anesthesia he is not able to regulate all his body functions. We strung a tarp over him to protect him until he came around and stood up.

This is Hunter who is a strikingly beautiful two year old.

Here the anesthesia drug is administered. Hunter is available for adoption and as you can see he is a wonderful size and would make a great ladies or younger persons horse.

Surgery done and he is on his way to recovery.

We still have available for adoption Hoss is still undergoing his gentling process, but is ready to go to a new home with an experienced horse person.

If you are interested in adopting one of the three young boys that we have available, please contact us at WHOASalberta@gmail.com to arrange a visit to see if one of them is the perfect hose you have been looking for.

Nothing to do with horses, but on my way out to our facility I was on a backroad and I heard a funny call. When I stopped to listen this little fawn stood up and called out several more times.

I snapped a couple of quick pictures because it was so cute and then drove off to let it settle down and await mom’s return. Conservation officers and wildlife rescue organizations advise us to not pick up the young animals thinking they are abandoned. In almost all cases they are not and the mom’s are just off feeding and by being away they are also protecting their babies.

Got to love the wild horses and all the wildlife that inhabit our great and beautiful Alberta country.

Mending Fences

Some of our wild horses live close to the boundary between crown land and private land. There are fences that are supposed to be maintained by land owners and lease holders, but there are instances where they are not. In some cases it might be temporary when a tree comes down in a storm, and in others it is due to lack of maintenance. The Fence Line Act dictates who is responsible however we are finding that no one is taking responsibility and basically this act is a waste of paper.

In a lot of instances horses that WHOAS has had to rescue, have strayed off of public land and onto roadways or private property through these openings in the fence lines.

So on Sunday, June 19, a young stud wandered onto property close to the WHOAS rescue/handling facility. Where did he come from? Being “poop” detectives we back tracked his trail and found out that he had come out onto the range road two miles to the south. Getting to this point we also found that another large herd had also been on the road. Something had to be done.

This is the beautiful herd including these two young foals, that had wandered off public land and onto the roadway. Luckily by the time we got there they had made their way back to where they belonged in a large grassy meadow.

What we found was a large stretch of fence had come off the posts and was just laying on the ground. Further down we found where the fence had been cut to allow wheeled vehicles to enter this area. We always carry fencing repair material in our vehicle and were able to repair the fence line along the one roadway but we needed more material to finish the repairs. Monday was a torrential downpour and we weren’t able to return until Tuesday. Luckily the horses not come through the repaired section and we found them feeding in the meadow again.

After purchasing more rebar for posts and wire for the fence we were able to make the necessary repairs to hopefully keep the horses where they belong. There are a couple of other spots further back that need some work but without an ATV and hip waders! it is hard to get the fencing material back to this area. We will be trying to find a way to finish all the repairs that are necessary. This is because when checking the whole length of the fence in wet feet we found another herd of horses that frequent this area and were close to the fence line.

This is the second herd in this area. No babies yet but a couple of the mares show they are close. We just have to keep them where they are safe.

Thinking that everything was okay now, we drove the main range road toward the forestry gate and found this. Someone had cut the fence so that they could fell a large spruce tree for firewood. This had been done on the weekend. Luckily there were no horses around and the leaseholder did not have his cattle out yet. So another fence was fixed.

I reported these neglected and damaged fences to the government and other authorities and no one has bothered to respond to me.

This is the gorgeous 2-year old stud that we had to rescue on Sunday and he was the reason we found all the unmaintained fences and were able to assure the two other herds stayed where they belong. We have named him Hunter and we will now begin his gentling process to get him ready for adoption.

This is a 3-year old stud and we have named him Harley. He had strayed onto a rancher’s private property and had lived with his cattle for about two months. Efforts to move him back to public land had failed and so when they brought in their cattle to take out to their grazing lease, he followed the cattle into the corral. At this point the rancher then brought him to WHOAS.

We have been working with him and he has started to settle down to the point where we could halter him. With our handling system we are able to do this in such a manner that causes the horse the least stress.

Harley is in the chute while being softly talked to and gently touched. He won’t hurt himself in here.

Here Danny gently works the halter up toward his head the whole time moving slowly and carefully and talking to the horse. At the same time he gets his halter on, we also give him his first vaccination. Harley was just fine during this process.

Back in his pen and haltered.

This is Hoss who has been with is for awhile and was ready to go to a new home. Unfortunately the person who was going to adopt him was unable to take him due to unforeseen circumstances. So he has been gelded, freeze branded, and vaccinated and is ready to go to a new home. He is coming to be four years of age.

WHOAS is always ready to come to the aide of any Alberta Mountain Horse (wild) that find themselves in difficulty. We will always assure that they have the best forever and loving new home to thrive in. These remarkable horses do make tremendous riding horses in whatever discipline their owner wishes to take them.

The “Alberta Mountain Horse”

Since our inception in 2001 WHOAS has advocated that the wild horses roaming in the Alberta foothills be given their own distinct identity and legislation to protect and save them. Since 2013 WHOAS has been part of the FHAC (Feral Horse Advisory Committee) of the Alberta government. In the beginning we were the only ones working for the horses, in a group that was extremely biased and prejudiced against the horses. During this time we had always demanded that arguments and opinions presented by other stakeholders against the horses be backed up by sound scientific evidence. This was never done by the government and every point against them we were able to challenge successfully. In 2013 WHOAS entered into a MOU to implement some Alberta Mountain Horse population strategies. We showed that there were better methods to manage the wild horse numbers than culling them and sending them to slaughter.

In 2014 when the government announced there would be another cull, the public was outraged and social media took over. Even though approximately 50 head of horses were removed, WHOAS and others were able to step in and eventually gentled and rehomed almost all of them.

Also at this time another group Help Alberta Wildies (HAWS) was formed and became another very strong voice advocating against trapping and slaughter and keeping them wild. HAWS has become extremely successful through social media in educating both the public and the government.

Then two years ago reacting to public pressure and the actions of WHOAS and HAWS, the FHAC was reconvened. The new committee was comprised of a variety of stakeholders including this time professional scientists and researchers. Even though some of the stakeholders were still extremely biased against the horses, science became a part of making decisions concerning the horses. The whole purpose of this new committee was to come up with a long term management strategy. This plan is now in the final stages and awaiting final review and approval.

Even with this new plan the reference to the wild horses remains as defining them as feral animals which is totally unacceptable to both WHOAS and HAWS and the general public. They are not feral nor strays. One of points that I was disappointed in during the meetings was that the chief scientist from the Alberta government stated that he considered the horses as “feral”. What happened to a professional person like this not having an open mind and being acceptable to other professionals in his field who stated these horses are indeed “reintroduced wildlife“? Remember that all equines originated in early North America, so when early explorers brought them back they were basically coming home.

Generation after generation the horses have lived and reproduced, alongside all the other wildlife. Therefore they are not domestic, they are truly “wild” and definitely deserve to be given their own distinct identity.

In this light extensive DNA studies were done on a very large number of the horses over several years by the U of C and the U of Texas. During the FHAC meetings it was presented that the results of the DNA studies by both geneticists showed that the horses are indeed distinct and unique to the Alberta foothills. They have evolved into their own breed. Considering the facts that they are reintroduced wildlife and have their own unique DNA, they deserve to have their own identity and recognition. They are indeed the “Alberta Mountain Horse“.

As the plan to manage the horses moves to its final stages, WHOAS still strongly believes that no adequate and humane method of managing the horses can take place when they are still given the derogatory identity as “feral”. One of the reasons that this term is still being used by the government is the opposition presented against them by others on the committee who have their own monetary interests at stake. In fact in one meeting one of these stakeholders stated “there is no _____ way that they would approve or that they would allow the ____ horses being glorified at all”. Very professional! ??

This management plan for the horses is necessary. One of the points is that the government recognizes that the horses are part of the landscape and will be allowed to remain as part of the ecosystem of the Alberta foothills. This is a big step forward from just a few years back when the idea was to totally eradicate the horses. Unfortunately there are those still out there who still have this opinion and blame the horses and the wolves for all that is wrong.

The drought of last summer and the overgrazing by cattle on some of the leases led to an extremally hard winter for all the animals. Spring has been late arriving, even by the second week of June there was little new grass and some of the trees had yet to leaf out. This has led to another problem in that the predators (bears, cougars and wolves) have stayed down in the valleys looking for food and the horses have become a major prey for them this spring. HAWS has several trail cameras which have documented both black and grizzly bears going after the horses. So this spring has been very hard for the beautiful horses.

It was only a few years ago when AEP officials were on national TV stating that the horses had no natural predators and that is why they had to cull the numbers. WRONG!

Considering all these factors the Alberta Mountain Horse population is in serious decline. In 2019 the total count in the six equine zones was 1,679 and this year 2022 the government’s count for all zones was 1,178. This is an alarming decrease, it could be even lower taking into account the hard spring and predation. If something is not done, there is the chance that the numbers might get to such a level that a viable, sustainable population is doubtful. Therefore all the wild horse advocates are continuing to work hard to help the horses and get them properly protected.

If you believe that the wild horses should be redesignated as the Alberta Mountain Horse and offered proper protection, let the Minister of Environment, Jason Nixon, know your thoughts.

Another Heart Warming Story

Saturday, May 21, in the evening, a call came into WHOAS at 4:30 pm from conservation officers that campers in the Burnt Timer/Fallen Timber area had come across a very young wild horse that had apparently been abandoned. They requested help from WHOAS to see what could be done. It’s the long weekend and the area was occupied by large number of campers all up and down the Stud Creek road.

It was determined that we would respond as soon as we could but we desperately needed foal milk replacer powder if we rescued the baby. A frantic search ensued Saturday evening on a long weekend when everything was closed.

The campers that we were talking to did an exceptional job of taking care the best they could feeding it some cow’s milk to keep it hydrated. In fact one of the fellows stayed awake most of the night making sure it stayed around and got nourishment. A hero!

On Sunday morning our team headed out and after some difficulty located the little one. He was easily caught up and loaded into our trailer for the trip home to the WHOAS facility.

Safely home we let the little colt find his feet and get used to his new surroundings. Luckily we had managed to purchase a large pail of foal milk replacer and a bucket was prepared.

After some coaching by Danny who has a lot of experience with this, the colt began to get the idea that there was some good food to be had.

Being the weekend we had lots of volunteers to help with all the other horses under our care. The little colt in this whole process gained the name “Heaven”. The reason was “thank heavens we found him”! His time spent with the caring campers had already imprinted on him that us humans were not that bad. He was very friendly and began to check us all out even our visitor from the Yukon.

A pen was prepared for Heaven in one of our horse shelters using panels to confine him for his own safety. Lots of fresh bedding was put down and hay was put in his bucket so that he could investigate whatever it was. Still too young to really consume hay, young foals do mimic the adults and try out different grasses and plants.

WHOAS is so grateful to all the caring individuals that helped take care of and keep a watch on the little boy until he could be rescued. We also want to thank the conservation officers for their help and understanding in this situation.

There may be many reasons why the little colt was separated from his herd and had to seek out human company. But he was lucky there were people around that wanted to help him out.

We have volunteers that stay out at our facility 24 hrs a day right now. They will make sure that Heaven receives feedings at regular intervals throughout the day and night. We will keep you up-to-date on his progress and look forward to watching him grow and thrive.

The Story of “Lucky Star”

This is the story of this little new filly who was found by concerned people in distress on
public land west of Hwy 762, south of Bragg Creek, Alberta on April 15, 2022. It appears that somehow it got separated from the mare or maybe that something had happened to the mare. It was in dire straights in the cold and snow at that time. The people that found this baby tried to contact all the proper officials in order to find out what to do.

Seeing the condition and situation it was in, and acting upon advice, the caring people who lived near by decided to rescue the little one and bring it home until a decision was made on what to do with the apparent orphan.

At Stuart and Nancy’s place, they prepared a dry warm area for the filly. After contacting the government and WHOAS, permission was granted to allow them to care for her.

Stuart sacrificed his own jacket to help warm up the new baby. Unsure how to properly take care of her, a call was put out to find a nurse mare to ensure its survival. Fortunately a mare was found at a stable just east of Calgary and the foal was quickly transported to meet its hopefully new mom.

After some time and patience, success! It was given the name “Lucky Star” for the white star on its face and being so lucky to have been found in time. It is doing well and has been fully accepted by the mare and we know it has found a beautiful forever home.

Thanks to all the people and agencies that stepped up and allowed this to be a happy story.

Getting into Trouble

At this time of year we receive calls of young bachelor studs straying on private property looking for “love” and a chance to start their own family. WHOAS responds to each situation to help the landowner deal with of the horses causing the problems. In some cases it is just a matter of chasing them back onto public land and fixing fences. In some we even purchase electric fencing to assist where its feasible to help keep the horses away from private property. Then in some we are obligated to have to go in and capture the young studs causing the problem. They are then taken to the WHOAS rescue/handling facility where we start gentling them and giving them a chance at a new life.

Once we have captured the wild horses, we are not allowed to return them to the forestry. That is the case with the three young studs pictured above who had broken down fences and were causing difficulties with the landowner’s own domestic horses, particularly her purebred mares.

Here they are at the far end of her hay field and you can see where they had broken down her fence. While on her land and refusing to move off, the owner was obligated to keep all her horses locked up to prevent injuries to any of the horses.

So with a full crew of volunteers, and a large number of our own panels, we arrived early in the morning and began to set up a capture pen. With the expertise of our volunteers, the pen was set up in a manner which would allow the horses to be slowly funneled toward our horse trailer which was baited with some fresh hay.

It took a bit of time to slowly move the horses into the area where the pen was set up. This is something you do not want to hurry as you want to keep the horses as calm as you can. In order to encourage them close to the pen, a domestic horse was brought over in an area outside of the panels.

Once the horses were close to the trailer, the crew moved in to close off the opening. The whole idea is to slowly close in the panels so that the horses have smaller and smaller areas to move about.

By moving slowly ourselves in everything we do, the wild horses don’t become too upset. As you can see here, they are standing and not too stressed. We would have wanted to take more pictures, but as the process begins we are more concerned about their safety and getting them into the trailer. So cameras down!

Almost there and shortly after all three of them safely jumped into the trailer and the door secured them in there for their journey to the WHOAS facility.

Once at our site, the horses were unloaded in their very own pen and introductions began with other horses we have in our care, two of whom are already adopted.

None the worse for wear, boundaries began to be set out with lots of squealing as introductions were made. Once they have settled into their new space, hay was introduced to them and they eagerly started to fill their bellies.

Over the next few months, our volunteers will begin to work with these horses to gentle them down and start getting them ready for future adoption. All boys will be gelded and vaccinated before going to their new forever home. Another government requirement is that all the horses be freeze-branded with the WHOAS brand.

The three amigos ready for a new life.

This is another young boy who has recently come into our care. Meet “Howdy”, who is only 2 years old and he is adapting well to his new life. He is quite thin but is quickly putting on weight.

Besides the four boys here, we also have two other boys and one mare that will be looking for a new home. If you are interested we encourage you to arrange a visit to see if any of these horses would be a good fit for you. You can find our adoption application at the top of this page.

We are also looking for volunteers to help out cleaning pens, feeding the horses and learning more about the gentling process. Bring boots and your lunch! Contact us at WHOASalberta@gmail.com.

Spring Welcomes New Life

Spring is trying to come but the warmth to bring on the new grass really hasn’t arrived yet. For the wild horses, the arrival of this year’s foals cannot wait for the green grass. Some of the mares have given birth and these beautiful young babies are wonderful to see. The ones we’ve been able to see so far are looking strong and healthy and the mares are in relatively good condition.

Even on the open hillsides that get the warmth of the sun all day, the new grass is slow to come. The herds are moving around a lot in order to find enough feed. This herd has no foals yet but there are three pregnant mares in the group.

This cutie with his spiked mane is last year’s foal. He has come through the winter in good condition thanks to his mare allowing him to nurse. He is taking advantage of the warm sunshine.

This young stallion has come through the winter so well with his shiny, glossy coat. He has been rolling quite a bit to groom out his winter coat. This show us the hardiness and beauty of our Alberta wild horses.

With the spring weather comes the shedding of winter coats and the need for the wild horses to also deal with the winter itch. This young boy takes the opportunity to scratch his chin and neck on a tree stump.

This gorgeous mare and her foal take advantage of new green grass along an open spring. These are the areas that become green first and the horses and other wildlife definitely know this. Both foals in this band are fawn coloured which is the most prevalent colour for newborn foals. If they laid down in the brown grass they would be well camouflaged and that may be the reason for their colouring. This is the usually the case no matter what the colouring of the mare or stallion.

This little guy is an exception with his mare a light sorrel and the stallion is a dark bay. It is amazing that only being about a week old, how quickly they mimic the adult horses by picking at the grass. So far all these early foals are doing very well and have a good chance to grow up. Despite the weather changing almost daily, all they need is Mom’s milk to remain healthy and strong.

Mom was unconcerned as this little one tested out his footing on a frozen pond. He seemed to take great pleasure in listening to the sound his hooves made on the ice. Luckily he remained on his feet and joined his herd again as they wandered off.

This black beauty is the sire to the two fawn coloured babies. He stood off to the side as the mares fed and his one little guy practiced his skating lessons! Other stallions were in the area, and he was constantly on the alert to protect his harem. You can tell he is in prime condition for this time of year. His strong genes will be carried by the foals he sired and assure his strong characteristics will be preserved.

We were happy to see another one of our favorite stallions looking absolutely magnificent as he fed along a hillside and kept watch over his mares. We had not seen him for a long period of time so this was a treat in our travels that day.

This is wonderful time of the year to visit the wild horses as the babies are arriving even though most will come in May or June. One thing we have noted in some locations, the herds will start to gather in order to protect the new foals. There is protection and strength in numbers.

Come On Spring!!

Although winter has been extremely kind to our wild horses, we are all hoping for an early spring. March can be tough on the horses as the snow gets crusty and the food sources become a bit harder for them to find. This little yearling has done well but still relies on its mom’s milk to keep it growing and thriving.

Floating on air!

This stallion did not like us being too close to his band who were pawing through the snow just beside us. He is seemingly floating above the roadway through the new fallen snow. Once he let us know he was not happy, he joined his herd and we left him in peace. The tranquility of winter scenes with the wild horses is always inspiring.

Soaking up the rays

In certain parts of the horse range the hillsides are exposed allowing the herds to move about a little easier. These two take advantage of the winter sunshine and they have very good body condition for early March.

Here you can tell that the sunshine along with the chinook winds have opened up the terrain. The wild horses take full advantage of these locations.

Whiskers

This youngster may need a shave! We just thought he was so cute with his long facial hair.

March is also the time of year when the bachelor studs start honing their fighting skills. They will need to use these techniques that they learn in these mock battles when it comes time for them to challenge a band stallion for his harem. If you are looking for action photos, this is definitely the time of year you can find them. When we did our aerial count with HAWS we found this same bachelor group and they were still at it!

Can you find the two grey coloured mares? These bands were taking full advantage of the diminished snow on this high hillside.

WHOAS along with HAWS and financially supported by Zoocheck, decided to work together to conduct our own aerial census of the Sundre Equine Zone. This is a controversial area and although the AEP will be conducting their own government survey, in our own minds we just wanted to ensure that the number of horses in this zone are reflected properly by both surveys.

In our ground travels throughout the winter we were finding a lot fewer horses in their typical wintering areas. Why was this? So one of the other factors that we wanted to determine was where had the horses dispersed to and maybe determine why. This type of information is crucial in our ongoing meetings with the government in determining a long term management strategy for the wild horses. Where they are inhabiting is important in what effect they may be having on forage availability for the cattle leases and other wildlife.

What we found out was that a large number of the horses have moved into more remote areas away from roadways and people. In fact in our flights we were seeing horses in areas a long ways back in the forest where we would never have been able to see them before. Another factor we found interesting is that when we approached horses that were used to human interaction, they would mostly stand and watch us fly by as we counted their numbers. However those horses that were in the more remote areas were truly wild! When we approached with the helicopter they would immediately start to run off. So in these instances it was a quick tally and then leave them be.

Typical terrain in the Sundre Equine Zone

There were 3 bands of horses in this meadow, and as you can see with the new snow and the bright sunshine they were easy to spot from a distance. We would them move in circling above to do a count on the total number of horses and also determine in each band how many subadults (1-2 years old) were with them.

During the 2 days we conducted our survey we flew in tight grid patterns in a south to north direction, half a mile apart, along the same grids used by the AEP in their 2019 count. We adhered precisely to these patterns to ensure that our count numbers were accurate. We used GPS coordinates to map the exact locations of every horse that we spotted, band or single.

This photograph gives you an idea of the grid pattern that we flew on day one and the marked waypoint locations.

One of the most frustrating situations that is occurring in the Sundre Equine Zone is the ongoing criminal theft of a very large number of trail cameras set up by HAWS in the Williams Creek area. HAWS was using data collected from the cameras in order to identify horses and also track their movements. Information such as this is again important in determining what sort of action may be necessary in the AEPs long term population management strategy for our beautiful Alberta wild horses. In total HAWS has lost 83 cameras in a short period of time. Along with the cameras are the SD cards containing all the data that they were counting on to help them in their research. However, not only has HAWS lost cameras out there, the University of Saskatchewan over the 3 years they had been conducting their research have had 39 cameras stolen.

On wonders why these criminals would be doing this. But one of the things that come to our minds is that they do not want the truth about what little impact the horses are having on the environment. They would prefer the biased and misinformation they put forth about the horses be what the government uses. Who would want this?

One of the arguments used against the horses is that they are destroying the environment. Take a look at the photograph above which is above the Red Deer River Ranger station. This damage was done just this past fall by atv users. Now I have been using this back country since the early 1960s and this hillside has always been untouched and undamaged until now. Cattle, horses, deer, elk and bears have used this same hillside without causing any damage whatsoever for millennium. The grass was always there for the animals no matter what species. Come spring when the rains come, these tracks will be washed out and a permanent scar will remain. These tracks will likely encourage those who have no respect for the environment to continue to degrade this lovely hillside. What is the government going to do about this as I did report it to them?

In the past, opponents of the horses, including the government, have claimed the wild horses are overrunning the countryside and their population is ballooning out of control. All this with no sound scientific basis. Others claim that the horses are the reason that there are no wildlife left in the foothills. Again with no proof. It is so much easier for many to blame the horses and the wolves for what is wrong in these ecosystems. This is so far from the truth.

We were just sent an article from the “Family Herald”, dated August, 1966. The article starts off with people being concerned about recent attempts to round up bands of wild horses. This used to be called the Rocky Mountain Forest Reserve where wild horse wranglers who had seen the horses estimated there to be two-three thousand head. The Alberta Forest Service (currently AEP), used the same arguments then that the horses are taking the grass away from the cattle and the wildlife. Some things never change! The article briefly outlines efforts to remove the horses and their failed attempts to do so. Quite an informative article!

In the 60s, even the Alberta Cattlemen’s Association stated there were three thousand horses roaming at will throughout the foothills. Newspaper articles state that in 1991 the Alberta Fish and Wildlife department indicated there were 300 wild horses in Kananaskis country. In the AEP aerial count in 2021 found only 81 horses here, so the numbers are not ballooning out of control in fact they are diminishing. Our point in all of this is that the number of horses now roaming in all the equine zones are not at a level that requires any intervention. In fact even in the 2021 census the total number of horses in all the equine zones has gone down. Why is this? The research from the universities and from HAWS could have helped determine why the numbers are going down.

Some do not want to know this and even the AEP in the past have refused to acknowledge even their own past records on the number of wild horses living in the equine zones. This has enabled them to blame the horses for all that is wrong today.

Those that claim that there are no elk to hunt any more because of the horses, fail to realize that when the horses were as numerous as they were, elk were in abundance in these areas. As a matter of fact back in 1977 the Alberta bull elk record was taken in the Panther River area. I myself back in the 60s and 70s, on the same hillside mentioned, have seen up to 500 head of elk grazing in midwinter. Further back in the YaHa Tinda it was not unusual in the winter months to see vast numbers of elk. Where did they go? It is definitely not because of the horses that the wildlife numbers have diminished so much.

WHOAS is grateful that the current FHAC committee formed by the AEP has recognized the importance of the Indigenous knowledge and history in providing answers to all these questions and help determine a fair and sound management plan. This knowledge goes way back well before the arrival of white settlers onto their land.

In our opinion it is not the wild horses that should be of concern in determining the environmental action to protect the ecosystems and landscape of our Alberta foothills that is necesssary. Factors such as global warming, drought, deforestation, industrial exploration and increased recreational use do play a significant role.

WHOAS continues to be involved with the government in coming up with a fair and humane management strategy to protect the wild horses. One of the biggest obstacles we are coming up against is their refusal to redesignate the horses as a distinct species and removal from the Stray Animal Act where they are deemed a ‘feral’ animal. This is completely wrong, they are not stray animals. We will do whatever is necessary to assist in coming up with a viable solution to allow the horses to remain forever free.

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!

Merry Christmas!

On behalf of WHOAS Board of Directors, but especially from the wild horses, we want to wish Merry Christmas to all our supporters. We wish you a happy and safe holiday season and look forward to your support in furthering our efforts as we work with the government to get these beautiful horses better protection. Thank you so much and stay safe.