Mission Statement

Wild Horses of Alberta Society’s mission is to ensure the provision of all aspects of the conservation and humane treatment of wild horses in Alberta.  We are committed to the preservation of these magnificent animals in their natural environment.

WHOAS Objectives (Purposes)

  1. To protect the environment by working with the government to establish reasonable and achievable wild horse population management solutions.
  2. To provide a public amenity by maintaining a proper rescue and handling facility that is safe for the public to attend to witness first-hand wild horses.
  3. To promote the welfare of wild horses by rescuing, gentling and rehoming of wild horses providing veterinary care, and by operating a wild horse adoption program.
  4. To advance education by providing presentations and workshops on the history of wild horses in Alberta.
  5. To advance education by participating in research by collecting data to support scientific research that will add to overall public understanding and increasing knowledge to the scientific community.
  6. To undertake activities ancillary and incidental to the attainment of the above-mentioned charitable purposes.

Our Projects

Rescue and Rehabilitation Work

Over the years WHOAS has been able to help relocate wild horses that have ended up on private property and push them back onto the forestry and crown land. Very young foals that have been abandoned or injured have been rescued, gentled and adopted out to forever homes. In 2015 WHOAS found homes for 28 of the wild horses that were captured.

What does “gentling the wild horses” mean?

Experienced volunteers have developed a safe and kind process to start wild horses who have never had a human hand touch them. There are several steps to get them to the point where a halter can be put on them, they learn to be tied, then safely led into a barn stall so gentle brushing can begin. At every stage, good feed is provided and the horses soon learn this is a very good thing! All stallions are gelded before they leave to go to a new adoptive home. All potential adoptees must submit an application which is vetted by our team.

Education Activities

WHOAS operates totally by a group of committed volunteers. Over the years many visits to schools have occurred where presentations are made to students about the wild horses. Other groups interested have been young people from 4H groups as well as students from First Nations Schools. Several groups from other equestrian disciplines have also been interested in finding out about the wild horses.

WHOAS has participated, and continues to do so, in seasonal fairs throughout southern Alberta talking to interested persons about the wild horses and what they can do to ensure that these magnificent animals remain in their natural environment.

Assistance to Private Land Owners

The wild horses live on crown land which belongs to all Albertans. However, there is private land which borders the forestry boundary and there have been occasions where the wild horses have moved onto this property causing conflict with private stock. WHOAS has assisted these land owners by purchasing fencing equipment as well as providing volunteers to help them repair their fences so that the wild horses remain on crown land safely away from human interaction.

Support for Scientific Research

WHOAS is supporting scientific research on the wild horses with University of Calgary professors. Dr. Jocelyn Poissant, post-doctoral fellow, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, has a project to collect samples to study the DNA of our wild horses as well as parasite studies. This past summer he and a student have collected close to 150 samples. Other professors from the university are providing population management data to guide our team working on wild horse mare contraception, a long term study to show wild horse populations can be safely and humanely managed. This project is led by our veterinarian and a team of trained WHOAS volunteers and photographers. The Science and Conservation Centre, Billings, MT, provides the training for this project.

We recently participated with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Ecosystem and Public Health, in a field day which included 4th year veterinary students from across Canada and beyond. This was part of an elective course for the students to work on several cases involving animal, human and environmental health. The students spent the day with WHOAS volunteers at our site learning about WHOAS and our objectives and programs. They then went into the field to study the horses in their natural environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who is responsible for the wild horses in Alberta?
  • In Alberta the wild horses when on public lands fall under the jurisdiction of the Alberta government who refer to them as “feral animals.”
  • They are regulated under the Stray Animal Act (RSA 2000, S-20) and the Horse Capture Regulations (Alta Reg 59/1994). (open.alberta.ca/publications/1994_059)
  • WHOAS has a capture license issued by the government. If a complaint is made about wild horses on public land, this permit allows WHOAS to step in and capture wild horses that are in distress or are deemed to be a nuisance to other users of public land. Once captured we are NOT allowed to release or relocate the horses, and are obligated to file a report specifying the age, class, sex, colour and any markings of each horse captured. Pictures must be submitted within 48 hours of the capture.

2. Where do the horses come from that WHOAS rescues?

  • In the past the government has implemented culls/capture of a certain number of wild horses in each calendar year for population control. There has not been one since 2015. That year 48 wild horses were captured and WHOAS was able to rescue 39 with the rest going to private buyers.
  • When a wild horse strays onto private land, they fall under the jurisdiction of the Livestock Identification Service (LIS) who administers the Stray Animal Act.  This deals with animals that are on private property. In the past these horses would be rounded up by government approved horse trappers and taken to meat buyers. WHOAS has come to an agreement with the government of Alberta and the LIS to be able to step in and rescue these horses and to bring them to our facility. It is these stray horses that make up almost 99% of the horses that WHOAS rescues and adopts. If not for this adoption program, sanctioned by the government and LIS, these horses would likely be slaughtered.

3. Who is responsible for the wild horse that is now on private land?

  • Once on private land, the landowner is responsible for what can happen to these horses. They are advised to contact the LIS who will give them permission to phone WHOAS in order to remove the horses to their facility. Or, the landowner could take them to market with approval of LIS or in fact they could be disposed of, i.e., shot.
  • (Stray Animal Act, RSA 2000 c S-20,  Current as of April 1 2023)

4. How do wild horses get themselves onto private land?

  • On farms and ranches bordering the forestry, young stallions that get kicked out of their herd, go wandering looking for a family of their own. They gain access to the private land, through broken down fences, open gates and some instances even jumping the fence lines.

5. What happens to these horses when they arrive at WHOAS rescue/handling facility?

  • Once WHOAS rescues a wild horse, we are not allowed by government regulations to relocate the horse back onto public lands. We then begin the gentling process to get them ready for adoption.
  • We have a dedicated team of volunteers who ensure the health and welfare of the horses under our care.
  • WHOAS also assures the horses are health checked, dewormed, and in the case of stallions, gelded and vaccinated. Under no circumstances will we allow a stallion that is not gelded to be adopted.

6. Why are the horses freeze-branded?

  • In agreement with the government and other stakeholders (e.g., cattle lease holders, trappers, hunters and the Alberta Wilderness Association) all horses coming through WHOAS receive our brand. This assures that any horses leaving our premises will not be turned loose back onto public land.

7. What is the adoption procedure?

  • WHOAS has a thorough adoption process which requires any prospective adopter to submit an adoption application which is available on our website:  www.wildhorsesofalberta.com
  • This application must include pictures showing where the adopted horse being adopted will live. We encourage the potential adopter to include the premise identification number (PIN). This assures us that they indeed have a proper facility.
  • All potential adopters must visit our facility and introduce themselves to our handlers and to their potential new horse.
  • We are very careful in vetting any potential adopter to make sure that when the horse leaves WHOAS the long-term welfare of the horse will be taken care of (veterinarian, farrier, etc.).

8. What are the Alberta government’s long-term plans for the wild horses?

  • In 2013 the Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) who were responsible for the wild horses, instigated a Feral Horse Advisory Committee (FHAC). This committee which includes all stakeholders were tasked with formulating a strategy for wild horse population management. Currently the government is reviewing proposals put forth by different stakeholders on a long-term wild horse management plan. This is still in the works and WHOAS is waiting for a final draft to review.
  • WHOAS submitted our proposal in 2021 and in it we have stipulated under no circumstances can there by an indiscriminate culling of the wild horse population.
  • WHOAS is a member of the FHAC and has been since 2013.

Supporting WHOAS

Learn How You Can Help Support WHOAS