Recently, Bob Henderson attended a meeting with the SRD of all interested parties pertaining to the Wild Horses. The likelihood of a Cull this year is very likely based ont he meeting. It is again time to start a letter writing campaign and if you so choose phone campaign Below is an edited version of Bob’s description of the meeting:
I thought I would fill you all in on what happened at the last meeting in Red Deer on Oct 4, 2013 with the ESRD, SRI people and other stakeholders.
It does not look good for not having a capture season this year. Most of the other identified stakeholders are people representing groups that appear to have opinions against the wild horses. In this meeting we were divided into 3 groups with various parties in each one to decide on a short term strategy for this upcoming year. This is where the ESRD has convinced almost everyone that the number of wild horses is “mushrooming out of control” and unless something is done soon it will continue to get worse according to them. When it came down to whether or not to have a capture season, I, myself representing WHOAS, was the lone dissenter. I expressed our information about the low foal survival this year and few surviving yearlings in the herds that we have been following this summer. Even the aerial count done in March showed low yearling numbers with the herds. However, they still maintain that these numbers have shot up so dramatically that the integrity of the range is in jeopardy due to the horses.
As it is now the ESRD in assessing the available rangeland in the forestry allocates 50% for wildlife and 50% for cattle leaving nothing for the horses as they still consider them as not wildlife. Even though the grass is probably the most renewable resource out there, because the horses live on it year round, they say by springtime when the cattle are let loose, the horses have already degraded it. This is contrary to what I have observed and others who are out there, especially this year. Even in the real dry years I have not seen this. So using this “explosion” in numbers this is what they see as being getting worse in the future unless steps are taken immediately.
Dr. Edward Bork, from the University of Alberta, admitted more research had to be done and was amazed that ESRD has not taken all the data from the users (especially the timber companies) and matched up horse numbers and locations with the growing areas of cut blocks. It was fairly common, except for one or 2 people, that more research is required in order to come up with a long term management strategy. Another point that was brought up by him and the representative of the Alberta Wilderness Association was that one of the things that dramatically affect range degradation is bush encroachment which they feel is out of control due to nature events such as fire not being prevalent anymore. Still the horses get the blame?
One thing that Dr. Bork did bring up is a study that was never published by Barry Irvine out of the University of Alberta who studied the horses in the Hinton area. He stated that the horses had an extremely small effect on new seedling regeneration. We need to try and get our hands on this study or any others that have been done.
…Suggestions of even shooting the horses was made if enough aren’t caught during the trapping season to bring the numbers “down”. So narrow-minded is this guy that he only sees the horses as being the reason that hunting game numbers are decreasing dramatically. The mere mention of loss of habitat (logging), the increase in recreational use and the effect that cattle have on the range they refuse to even fathom.
…representative is that the wild horses carry Equine Infectious Anemia disease and that according to CFIA regulations any horse with this decease has to be destroyed. Again they don’t test for this and this is just his belief. Sick animals do not live long in the wild so I think again in my opinion this is just another fear mongering statement. However, this fear could work to our advantage in our efforts to go forward with a rescue and handling facility for the wild horses. The reason for this is that all caught horses could be tested because they cannot just go for slaughter and enter the food chain, no matter what, as they are now.
ESRD are saying that capture numbers to maintain the total numbers would be 30% of the total population (i.e., 300 horses out of their count of 1,000). Then except for myself most felt that there should be no sex or age separation of horses caught and that any horse entering a pen could be removed. They point out that in elk herds the best way to reduce numbers is to take the females out. But the horses aren’t wildlife!!!! The point of just concentrating on trouble areas with the bachelor herds was not accepted because it was deemed to be “too hard”.
This summarizes the results of this meeting. Going forward we definitely have to prove that the horse numbers are not increasing at an alarming rate and are out of control. Since then I have been trying to research pre-1993 (horse capture regulations introduced) numbers. A lot of the information I’m starting to find shows that numbers back in the ’50s to the ’70s exceeded today’s numbers and yet there wasn’t a problem that is perceived to be now. In the 1980′s it was the hunting and assault on the wild horses in the attempt to eliminate them that led the old-timers to lobby and get at least the current regulations put into effect. We really need to work on this point…
…I believe this is urgent as they are going to make a decision soon to issue permits. Ms. McQueen will be giving all this information and she will be the one who decides. Maybe we can still put public pressure on her.
Again I just point out that most of the groups and individuals who are negative about the horses are those who have a financial interest in their using the public lands that the wild horses call home.
We need to have our annual meeting to address all of this and decide on our next course of action. As soon as I receive the actual minutes from this past meeting, I will forward them on.