Typical AEP Response!!!

To say that here at WHOAS we are upset with the AEP and government opposition to the wild horses is putting it mildly.  A couple of weeks ago we stepped in to rescue a whole herd of 11 wild horses, including two foals, that were trapped on some private land. It was no fault of the horses that they ended up here. They normally inhabited an area just inside the forestry within a half a mile of roadway gates that lead further back. They had been there for some time without causing any harm. Then one day we noticed that someone had swung wide open the barbed wired gate that leads out onto the public roadways. Accident? Don’t think so. Soon after we were notified of this herd of horses being where they were. Is it a coincidence that the forestry land that they had lived on for so long is also a cattle lease for the people that own the private land where they horses ended up? Don’t think so. This is just speculation but it seems odd that this happened right after the cattle were put onto this lease.

With threats of them being sold to a meat buyer, WHOAS stepped in to save them having to purchase them off the land owner. We have rescued so many horses over the years and found loving homes for all of them. The one thing we have found out though is that mature horses, such as the stallion and four mares in this herd, are very difficult to gentle and to find people who wish to adopt them. They never totally lose their want to be free. The younger wild horses are much easier to work with and make excellent human companions to their adopters.

Once at our handling facility, we separated the horses to ensure their safety and began to feed them and try to have them settle down and gain some trust in us. As you are likely aware, the new foals cannot be weaned from their mares for several months. Knowing all the difficulty it is to gentle the adults, we proposed to the AEP a plan to relocate the five mature horses and also the two babies.

What we proposed was that we would brand all of the adults so that they could be identified in the field for future research. We offered to also vaccinate the mares to prevent them from reproducing thus helping with population management that the AEP has indicated they want so badly. The two yearlings and 2 two-year olds we would keep and get them ready for adoption. In all this would have had an effect by taking seven female horses out of the reproduction cycle which would have been a great benefit to a possible AEP management strategy. We also pointed out to them that we could have had the U of S collar one of the mares for tracking purposes. This would have given a lot of information to the AEP on herd movements throughout the range and through the seasons. This kind of information is vital in determining any sort of management program. This collaboration would have been a “win-win” for all parties involved, but especially for the horses.

The response today was that the AEP has denied this plan! They say that since we bought the horses off the land owner, they belong to us and they cannot allow us to put them back on public land. They indicated that this is a legality issue. This is even though how the horses got off public land and ended up on private property is quite suspicious. This negative attitude toward the horses by the AEP is constantly displayed in all our dealings with them. Considering one of the policy makers in the AEP is a cattle rancher, I guess this is not surprising.

Time to take action – contact the government to express your views and concerns.

Notley, Rachel, Hon., MLA, Premier
Government Members
Legislative Branch
307 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB   T5K 2B6
E-mail: premier@gov.ab.ca

Phillips, Shannon, Honourable
Minister of Environment and Parks, Minister Responsible for the Climate Change Office
Office of the Minister
Environment and Parks
208 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB  T5K 2B6
E-mail: aep.minister@gov.ab.ca

Denhoff, Eric
Deputy Minister
Office of the Deputy Minister
Environment and Parks
11th fl Petroleum Plaza ST
9915 – 108 Street
Edmonton, AB   T5K 2G8
E-mail: eric.denhoff@gov.ab.ca

WHOAS will always continue to work toward solutions that will enable our Alberta wild horses to forever remain roaming wild on public land in the foothills.



A Necessary Rescue

Just over a week ago WHOAS was informed that a herd of 11 wild horses had strayed out of the forestry and onto private property adjacent to it. The owner of this property also has the cattle lease in the forestry from where this herd had come from. Once on their land, the gates were closed and the horses were confined as you can see above. At this point the horses, since they are considered “strays”, legally become their property to do with as they wish.

Acting on this information, the land owner was contacted by WHOAS members about chasing the horses back into the forestry. This was outrightly refused and it was indicated that they were going to contact a meat buyer to come and pick up these horses. In the past a similar situation had occurred with this land owner and a whole herd was sold to meat buyers. There was absolutely no way WHOAS could stand by and let this happen. Thanks to some negotiation by a couple of our members, the landowner thankfully relented and instead agreed to sell the horses to WHOAS as well as compensate them for full pallet of salt that had been put out for the cattle and that the wild horses has allegedly consumed.

A crew of volunteers was organized last Sunday to haul panels from the WHOAS facility and construct a catch pen.

Once set up the pens were left open and baited with some salt that WHOAS provided. Early the next morning the horses had entered the pen and the gate was tripped to hold them safely in our pens. Another team of volunteers came together and with 2 trucks and horse trailers attended at the site to secure the safety of these horses.

Before attempting to load the horses, one of the trailers was backed in to the load gate.

With the welfare of the horses always paramount, and because there were 11 horses in all including two foals, we separated them into two bunches using our two-pen setup.

Once all the horses were secured in the two trailers, they were transported to the WHOAS handling facility. Our pens are set up so that the horses can easily be moved into separate pens if necessary without any undue difficulty for the horses or the humans.

Prior to their arrival, hay and salt had been put in the pens so that once the horses were relocated, they could be left alone to settle down in their new environment. We give them several days for this to happen only entering the pens to provide fresh feed.

Let us introduce you to the horses we have.

First the stallion of the herd, a beautiful red roan:

Then there are 2 mature bay mares:

Then there are 2 mature mares with foals. The first mare with a star has a colt at her side.

The next mare has a little filly at her side.

Then we have a two-year old bay filly:

We then have a two-year old beautiful red roan filly and standing beside her is yearling filly.

Last but not least is a dark bay yearling colt.

It is so unfortunate that this had to happen to this beautiful herd of horses but there is no way in hell that we were going to allow them to go for slaughter!!!

We would rather see them running free and wild. This is what WHOAS has always stood for.

Over the years it has been our experience that the mature horses, mares and stallions are extremely hard to gentle and even harder to find adoptive loving homes for them. So in the case of the stallion, the four mature mares including the two new foals, we are making the following proposal to the AEP, the government department in charge of the wild horses. WHOAS has offered to apply the contraceptive vaccine (Zonastat-H) to the four mares along with applying our freeze brand to them and the stallion. We would then take the horses into a completely new area of the forestry to be released to freedom again. This would also ensure that the basic herd stays intact. The 2 two-year olds and 2 yearlings would remain and be gentled down for adoption. We hope, in light of recent meetings with the government, discussing situations like this, that we can gain their approval. It all depends on them.

Your membership funds and other donations goes toward helping us to rescue and save these beautiful creatures. Thank you so much for this help.



Spring Wonders

After a seemingly endless winter, spring finally came and with the warmth of the sun so did the grasses that our wild horses so desperately needed.  The hillsides and meadows are now green with plants of all varieties.

Throughout May and now into June the wild horse mares that were bred are giving birth to the next generation. Although they are still thin, they can forage easily now and produce bountiful milk for their beautiful wonders.

At this time of year, WHOAS volunteers are out in the field documenting the number of foals in our research area. This information is being gathered to assist in our yearly report to the AEP on the wild horses.

We had noticed throughout the long winter months that a number of the larger herds split up. This was to enable the horses to find enough feed to survive. Now going into spring and the foaling season we are finding several small herds where it is just one stallion, a mare and her baby. This is just nature assuring their survival.

As we are out in the field doing our observations throughout the week, we have been entertained by the antics of several of the young bachelor bands we have come across. Always on the move, they constantly test and pester each other.

Here another pair are engaged in a wrestling match. These are so fun to watch as little harm comes to either, just a few scratches and bite marks.

The other evening as we travelled about we were entertained by a couple of groups of wildies including these two youngsters. Here is a short video showing the beauty and uniqueness of our Alberta wild horses.

We hope that you enjoyed the video and can admire the treasure that these horses are for Alberta.

As soon as it stops raining, which the forest desperately needed, we will be out checking on the horses again.


I’m Adopted (Ready for Adoption) – “Cascade”

Cascade has been adopted and gone to his new home. Thanks to all who expressed interest in him.

I am a 3-year old gelding who found myself getting into trouble on a rancher’s farm west of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. My brother and I got kicked out of our herd by the herd stallion who had enough of our shenanigans so off we went. It was fun at first roaming around in the forests and meadows but soon we wanted some company and found a beautiful mare. Unfortunately she lived on private land and we were not welcome.

With the help of the rancher and the kind folks at WHOAS, we were encouraged to get into their trailer and came to their rescue facility just west of Sundre. At first we were frightened but soon learned that the humans were bringing us lots of good food and water. Before you know it we had halters on and began to trust these humans who did not want to harm us.

Now you should see me. I look forward to being led into their barn twice a day where I get more good food. I can be brushed and touched and its okay. I have been gelded, had my wolf teeth removed, vaccinated and wormed. I have also been freeze branded (W or H right hip) so if I ever get lost or stolen I can be found again.

Here one our volunteers is leading Cascade around his pen. This is part of his daily training.

Cascade is ready for adoption and looking for his forever owner and home. Contact WHOAS at WHOASalberta@gmail.com and arrange to come out and see him. He is not going to be a big horse, maybe 14.1 hh but is strong with good feet. We have found these wildies are quick learners and bond quickly with their new owners.


Spring Is Finally Here

Hard to believe that only 2 1/2 weeks ago the hillsides in wild horse country still had lots of snow covering them. Finally, though, it has warmed up dramatically and most of the snow is now gone. Now the wild horses can start to recover from the very long and harsh winter.

Where the herds were able to find open hillsides, the foals born were able to survive and move out with the herds. This brand new little one was one of those lucky ones who survived because of the open hillsides. Unfortunately for many of the foals born in the early part of April where the snow was still so deep and crusted, their survival rate was extremely low.

Here she is three weeks later looking healthy and following her mare as the herd continually moved to search for the new green grass.

Due to the way that the cold and snow hung on for so long most of the wild horses are still very thin, but now it will not take them too long to recover.  As with the foals, we know of several adult horses that succumbed to the adverse conditions just unable to move about and paw through the deep snow to find enough forage.  This is nature and goes to show that our Alberta wild horses do have to endure a lot of hardships in order to survive in our foothills.

Although most of the roads are now dry some of the back trails are still a little muddy, but we are able to check on the horses a little easier.  As we travel by vehicle and on foot it is so wonderful to see the foals with their herds, now looking very healthy and full of life.

We are always out there trying to locate the different herds that we know and always wondering where a certain herd or stallion is when we can not locate them.

This is all part of the research we are doing as part of our MOU’s with the Alberta government.  We continue to work toward collecting data and information to show that here is a more efficient and humane method to manage our wild horse population.  One of the things that has always come up since the Feral Horse Advisory Committee, (FHAC) was initiated by the government is the science that they use to justify some of their population management decisions, such as culling.  The one study was done in the late 1970’s by Richard Salter who did his thesis on wild horses and their affect on the landscape.  Now I have been roaming these Alberta foothills since the 1960’s and many others who have been doing the same, know how dramatically and drastically the whole ecosystems of this country have changed.  So a study done then has little relevance to the horses today.

The other research that is used by the AEP is the one done by Tisa Girard in 2008/09.  In this study she was studying habitat selection of the wild horses.  With her work she radio collared 4 horses in order to study this, but it was done in the McLean Creek area of Kananaskis Country.  This is an all year round area dedicated to the use of ATVs and any day of the week there are large numbers of users moving about the trails.  In this case how could the horses that were studied not be affected in their movements and habitat selection by the large number of ATVs?

WHOAS has always questioned the AEP’s use of these two particular research projects and we knew that more up-to-date scientific research needed to be done to help understand what affect that the wild horses may have on the landscape and other wildlife using these areas.  Without it how could proper wild horse management policies be put into place by the government?  In 2016 we were in contact with Dr. P.McLoughlin from the U of S in regards to maybe committing to a new research project in regards to this.  Dr. McLoughlin has been a leading researcher in regards to the Sable Island horses and other wildlife species in other Canadian provinces.  He agreed to look in to beginning such a research program and in 2017 received permission from the university to initiate the research.  The one thing that this project had to be was completely independent so that bias could not be used to influence the results.  This project also had the approval of the AEP.

In the spring of 2017 a researcher, Paul Boyce, under Dr. McLoughlin’s supervision began the research work, which will take several years, on the wild horses.  All last summer and into the fall the horses were being studied and numerous trail cams were used to track the horses in different areas.  The idea of using radio tracking collars on the horses is still important and after numerous consultations with the AEP a 3-week long permit was issued for the trapping and release of some horses in order to accomplish this.  WHOAS did supply the equipment for a catch pen and manpower to set it up.  One stipulation was that no pregnant mares would be confined to be collared and in late March a pen was set up in order to attempt to catch and collar 2 horses in the area around the Red Deer River ranger station.  Due to the conditions it took almost two weeks before some horses entered the trap.  Before the researchers could respond to the pen, someone else came along and released the horses from the pen.  So no horses were collared as the capture permit expired before any other horses could be captured. The collared horses would have been tracked by GPS and the collars would have the capability of being released remotely. This research is going to be vital in future management decisions around the wild horses.

Now I go into all this detail, only to let our followers and horse lovers know what is happening and the setback caused by the individuals that released the horses.  They may say they care about the horses but in fact they are doing an extreme amount of harm to the overall welfare of our wild horses and their future.  We should not forget, as WHOAS was reminded of in our last meeting with the AEP, that there are still many groups and individuals that want the wild horse numbers drastically reduced or even completely removed.

In the aerial census done by the AEP in January of 2018 the count that they came in for the Sundre Equine Zone was 1015 horses, where in 2017 it was 661 horses.  Now this was not the actual minimum number of horses seen as in previous years.  It is an estimate using a new way of coming up with a population of the horses from the air.  This is called “distance sampling” and if a certain number of horses are counted in a certain area then it could be estimated there is a certain percentage more.  ??????? Another factor that raises some concerns with me is that in previous years an independent observer accompanied the government staff during the survey.  This year that did not occur.

Enough with all of this and let’s get back to the babies!!!!!  We will continue to keep you up-to-date on the new foals with the herds and what is also happening to your wild horses. The horses will be okay now as the green grass comes on even more quickly.

We also want to thank all of you that came out to our Fund Raising dinner at the Olds Legion, which was a huge success on Saturday May 5.  Thanks to the legion staff for providing an excellent dinner again and to all you wonderful people who donated items to the silent auction.  Also a huge thanks to Lori and Merle Fox for arranging this annual event, once again.







We just wish to remind all of our supporters of our upcoming fundraising banquet.  All monies raised goes into our work to save and rescue wild horses that need help.  A lot of work still needs to be done to assure that the wild horses of Alberta can remain forever wild and free in the ever changing environment of Alberta foothills.

Tickets for our annual fundraising banquet are now available. The date is May 5 in the Olds Legion, 5241 – 46 St (highway 27)

Doors open at 5:00, Refreshments will be available beginning at 5:30 p.m., and a delicious Roast Beef dinner will be served at 6:00. Please contact us here or one of our directors for your ticket.

We will have a wonderful roast beef supper, silent auction, and more. Tickets are $30 each and all proceeds go to the wild horses where needed. Tickets sell quickly, so don’t miss out! You can use the link below to buy through PayPal or you can send a cheque or money order to:

PO Box 4154
Olds, AB T4H 1P7

You can also contact us via our email – WHOASalberta@gmail.com – and we can hold tickets for you at the door.

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Join us for an evening of good food and friendship. We look forward to seeing you and your friends and family.

Will Winter Ever End?

April Fool’s – still snowing. Yesterday as March rolled into April, the snow and cold persist in wild horse country. As we travelled the back roads, we found this group of boys trying to find some feed. The snow continues to deepen and this causes us concern as the foaling season is ready to start. Although the young ones may be able to adapt to the cold, the hard crusted snow would make it very difficult for them to follow their mare.

Even these boys had difficulty moving across this open clearing. We hope that the weather will moderate soon and the snow will start to recede and soften making it easier for all the forest’s inhabitants. Yesterday we even saw deer struggling to negotiate to travel across the snow pack. Go away cold and snow!

Along the eastern edge of the forestry the snows seems deeper and the horses are sticking closer to the tree lines in order to find something to eat.

As we moved further west where there was some open areas, the west winds and sun had started to open up some areas. The horses are moving to find these places. These two young boys were taking advantage of not having to paw.

Just when it seems that spring was here and the hillsides were exposed with the warmth of the sun, along comes another snow storm.

A little further west, on the real steep hillsides, even on a cold day, the sun has some warmth and has melted the snow. Right now these hillsides are being sought out by several herds.

It is hard to believe that two years ago on April 18, a forest fire was raging right where the snow is the deepest this year.

Even last year at this time, there was little snow left and the foals that were born had it easier. We have not found any new foals yet this year.

In several locations our members have had to move horses back into the forestry from public roadways. The horses were able to walk straight across the Texas gates  that lead into crown land as they were completely filled up with snow. WHOAS contacted the county in regards to this concern and the very next day we were so pleased to find that they had sent in vac trucks to clean them out. We have found no more escapees.

We hope that by the time Donoma is ready to foal, that her baby has a warm and dry environment to begin its new life.