A group dedicated to the preservation of wild horses in Alberta, Canada, has expressed dismay over a planned capture operation to remove about 200 of the animals.
The Wild Horses of Alberta Society believes better techniques could be used to manage horse numbers, including long-term contraceptives and the targeted removal of younger stock, which could then be trained as mounts.
The province conducts an annual survey of the horses that roam its foothills and, depending on numbers, issues permits for the capture of an agreed number. A significant number of the horses inevitably go to slaughter.
Society spokesman Bob Henderson expressed his disappointment at the granting of permits for the removal of the horses.
The society was “absolutely opposed” to the plan and, despite the arguments by Alberta’s environment department, there is no need for this method of population management, he said.
He condemned the use of the term feral to describe the animals, saying it was demeaning to the horses which, while descended from domestic horses, have been wild for many generations.
“The non-native, feral and exotic designations given by agencies are not merely reflections of their failure to understand modern science, but also a reflection of their desire to preserve old ways of thinking to keep alive the conflict between a species (wild horses) with no economic value anymore (by law) and the economic value of commercial livestock.”
Henderson said mismanagement continued, despite many peoples’ efforts to provide current and correct information.
The society, he said, had always come to the defence of the free-roaming wild horses and continued to do so today.
“We have always insisted there is a better way and acknowledge that humane and scientifically proven population control methods are necessary to sustain healthy herds and protect the environment.
In 2004, at the request of Rangeland Management, the society prepared a report outlining suggestions for management.
“This was totally ignored, as have been all our follow-up suggestions throughout the years.
“Maybe that is why the government was not honest and forthright in advising the people of Alberta of their decision to proceed with the capture season.”
Henderson said one of the society’s recommendations for population control would be the removal of younger horses that could be gentled and adopted out.
“This would only be necessary if the horses in a certain area were reaching a point where they were causing problems.
“Along with natural mortality and predators, this would quickly allow for proper control of the populations. We are actively working toward establishing a rescue and research facility that would allow us to implement this plan more effectively than we can right now just using private facilities.
“The other method of helping to control the free-roaming wild horse populations is the use of a fertility control drug, PZP.
“This is an injection that could be administered to wild horse mares by darting them, causing no harm.”
Injected mares would not come into cycle for up to two years.
“We are actively working with veterinarians to convince the government of Alberta to encourage us to go ahead with this.
“This drug and method of population control has been used in other locations, including zoos, where it is necessary. It has been proven to be a very effective method. This allows control without physical removal of animals.”
Henderson said society members truly believed its alternatives could be effective and totally humane if they would just be accepted instead of being ignored.”
More information: http://www.wildhorsesofalberta.com/