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Bear Valley Rescue, (Kathy and Mike), has done great work rescuing horses from throughout the province.  They have worked with WHOAS on numerous occasions to save wild horses and are also a great supporter of our ongoing efforts to have the Wild Horses of Alberta, afforded better protection.  I hope that many of you can now support them continue the work that they do by buying tickets to this event or by donating to them.

 

Picture

Ready for a new beginning

Ready for a new beginning

Yesterday Jack and Dan began the gentling process of the young stallion WHOAS rescued. You will remember that this boy and his family had strayed onto private property and were affecting the owners. Some say that they should have just been turned loose but with this winter the mare and her foal would not have survived. Although it would be nice to have them running free, in some cases it just will not work and the better alternative is the gentling and adopting out of these horses to forever homes.

Resistance

Resistance

Working with a mature wild horse takes a much different approach than gentling foals. Stronger and more adverse to change, it takes an exceptional talent with lots of patience in order to at first get a halter on. It was no different with this beautiful, proud young boy. It was quite a struggle to get the halter on in the first place. Then his education began.

Lesson 1

Lesson 1

Working with these knowledgeable horsemen who understand horse language and what it takes to gain the horse’s trust, it started. Here they are trying to convince the young man to yield to pressure and what was being done was okay.  Wild horses are extremely intelligent and they learn quickly. It wasn’t long before he began to accept this.

Human touch

Human touch

It was fascinating to watch as Jack, Dan and the boy learned about each other. As they began to touch him and get him used to this, often the horse on its own would make the first move.

Soft touching

Resistance overcome

 

Boy 8

Soft touching

In this very important first lesson, all sorts of techniques using aides, including a soft bristle broom, are used to touch the horse all over to show him that everything is okay no matter where he is touched. Every lesson is ended on a very positive note so that when the next lesson begins, progress will continue.

At ease

At ease

Here you can see the young stallion is resting and completely at ease at the end of his lesson. He is headed to a new home soon where he is in for a wonderful life. We will update you on this part of his journey.

WHOAS’s policy corresponds with that of many horse rescue facilities in that we geld all colts and stallions before they move on. Many of you know that this will allow the horse to be handled safely under all conditions and become a better companion for its human counterparts. We also believe it is very important to preserve the unique genetics of our wild horses and do not agree with indiscriminate breeding.

Haltering the young filly

Haltering the young filly

The young filly that was with the three that WHOAS rescued is also going to a new home. Her progress is moving along extremely well. Here she calmly accepts the halter being put on.

Touching and rubbing all over

Touching and rubbing all over

The reason the soft broom is used is for safely, both for the horse and the trainer. It also allows the horse to always know exactly where the person doing this to her is, thus keeping her more assured. Her eyes are closed as she enjoys the massage.

Bob

 

Boy are we tired of this winter

Boy are we tired of this winter

The struggle to protect your wild horses is continuing on many fronts.  Our friends at Help Alberta Wildies continue make everyone aware of the negativity that abounds in the ESRD and other groups about these beautiful creatures.  No one that cares, can let the pressure to have the wild horses afforded better protection and more humane treatment fall silent.  So we hope that you continue to let your voices be heard.  We still suggest you contact your local MLA and let them know how you feel, no matter what party they may belong to.  Here is a link to allow you, no matter where you live, to find the contact information for your MLA.  Ask them that the laws be changed so that the wild horses are afforded better protection and therefore assuring the overall welfare of our herds.

http://www.assembly.ab.ca/net/index.aspx?p=mla_home

Looking for forage under the dead trees

Looking for forage under the dead trees

When the count for the Sundre area was revealed I was shocked, and again scared, that we may have lost so many of our beautiful wild horses.  On Tuesday, April 1/14, one of our members flew with ESRD staff over the Ghost Equine Zone for the count.  This area had the second highest count in the 2013 census.  I was quite relieved to hear that the number of wild horses is up in this zone, as I worried greatly that if that number was down too, your Alberta wild horses were in trouble.  Thanks to a very long and exhaustive flight by the ESRD, the area was covered extensively. One thing that was noted was that there was quite a bit less snow throughout this area which probably assisted the survival rate of these herds this winter. The overall count for all zones will be forthcoming.

Clearing the snow banks

Clearing the snow banks

When talking to some of the opponents of the wild horses and staff at the ESRD it is clear that they still carry old notions and prejudices. What was maybe okay in the past is not okay in today’s world.  The next link is for a letter written by a member about this point.

http://www.reddeeradvocate.com/letters/Horse_hunt_has_no_basis_in_fact_250971711.html

It is time that we moved forward with policies surrounding all our wildlife and the wild horses.  No longer can we afford to allow a few individuals dictate to Albertans how our wildlife will be managed.  A lot of the management strategies concerning  caribou, grizzly bears, wolves and wild horses are based on old and inaccurate science.

Mom what are those strange creatures?

Mom what are those strange creatures?

As you have maybe seen from the other wild horse sites, a few foals have made their arrival into this forever winter.  It is amazing how these wonderful little creatures survive under such adverse conditions.  One thing I have noticed over the years is that indeed these earlier foals have a better survival rate than those born in the very wet month of June.  By then these little ones have the strength and stamina to survive the heavy rains and problems it can cause in new born animals.

Following mom

Following mom

As the weather warms and more forage is exposed, the physical condition of the horses will begin to improve and more beautiful foals will be born.

We are truly grateful to all the emails and phone calls from the supporters of your wild horses which shows that these horses do matter to a majority of the public (us).

Bob

 

Showing the hardships of a long winter

Showing the hardships of a long winter

Winter is not willing to let go of it’s grasp on the foothills and the rest of Alberta just yet.  This last week has seen up to another foot of snow accumulate on the ground.  Hillsides closer to the mountains that had been exposed by Chinook winds have been layered with snow again.  In many locations we are not finding horses, even though they have wintered in these areas for many years. Also we are finding many horses by themselves or herds where 2-3 members are gone.

Alone hurt and looking for feed

Alone, hurt and looking for feed

This yearling filly we found wandering alone with a good gash on her front right shoulder.  She was nibbling on low brush and what ever grass she could paw from the snow.  We have been keeping an eye on her and slowly moving her toward another small group of horses a mile or so away.  We are hopeful that with a little help she will be able to join up with this other band of a stud, mare and foal.

blog 3

Nibbling on soft brush shoots.

Winter indeed has taken a toll on your wild horse numbers and I am sure we will loose a few more before the real warmth of spring starts to melt the snow to expose more forage for them.

A couple of the ESRD’s aerial census counts have been done, but a few have had to be put off for a day when the weather will allow the helicopter to fly.  The one that we are aware of is the Sundre equine zone where last year 541 head were counted.  This year with a member of WHOAS aboard a the count only revealed, 346-354 wild horses.  From my own experience and that of other WHOAS observers, the previous counts have been very thorough and I am sure that the ESRD staff would be trying to be even more so this year. Maybe a few may have been missed but you can not fly over that country with good snow cover, looking straight down through the trees and miss a 173 head of horse.

From above with the helicopter

From above with the helicopter

 

Along the trees

Along the trees from the helicopter

 

Tell tale signs even from a fixed wing aircraft

Tell tale signs from a lone horse even from a fixed wing aircraft

Some individuals, especially those opposed to the presence of your wild horses, state that the biggest reason for the number discrepancy is because they say the horses were in the trees. In my experiences and those of others that during the daylight hours the horses are more likely to be along the fringes of the forest if the snow is deep. But no matter what there will always be tracks which indicate horses nearby. In the times I’ve been up upon seeing these tracks we would circle many times and even if the horses were in the thick of the timber you would be able to spot them. Therefore we are confident that the ESRD staff and their independent spotters do a thorough count.

Even by road or on snowshoes we are finding horses are missing from a large part of these ranges. We make sure to go out after fresh snowfalls to find the signs of horses we are looking for hoping we will find some where they have been missing. No luck many times.

Feeding on the edge

Feeding on the edge

One of the reasons when there is deep snow that you will find the wild horses along the edge of the tree line, is this will be one of the first places that any sunshine at all, will expose forage.  Another point is that the wild horses will hang out in the aspen thickets where even last year’s leaves will give them some nourishment. Even from the air or from the road you will be able to easily see the horses here.

Checking out the aspen thicket

Checking out the aspen thicket

WHOAS had been adamant that no capture season was necessary due to the high foal mortality rate in 2012/2013 and the toll that this winter was going to take on wild horse numbers.

It is nice to hear through another site that new life has begun in your wild horse herds with the first foal of 2014 being spotted in White Spirit’s herd. Let’s hope that this little one is joined as the season progresses by many more new ones throughout the wild horse herds.

WHOAS continues to move ahead for alternate and humane solutions to proper wild horse herd management. This includes the contraceptive program and an educational and handling facility. This facility would allow for schools, 4H groups  and the general public to visit and find out more about our the wild horses and the history they played in our province.

Bob

 

Standing proud

Standing proud

Winter is nearing the end in wild horse country. The herds are seeking out the exposed areas where the warmth has melted the snow. Many of the horses still appear to be in good shape in the areas that we travelled yesterday. We do know that in other areas though, some of the horses are showing the extreme hardships they have had to endure because of the harsh winter and are very gaunt. Soon however, they will start rebounding back as Mother Nature replenishes the rangeland.

She is safe away from Williams Creek area

The white mare…she is safe away from Williams Creek area

On March 11th the ESRD stakeholder’s meeting was held in Red Deer. A brief review was given on what had transpired this year in regards to the capture season. We were informed and it is unfortunate that the ASPCA has withdrawn from the committee, even though they state that they did not know about it at the beginning, they also had not attended any of the three previous meetings. Another lost humane voice for the wild horses.

Dr. Judith Samson-French, DVM, attended and gave an excellent presentation on a contraceptive initiative that her and WHOAS are willing to institute. She has a 3-year plan that has been thoroughly thought out and backed by excellent research and previous programs from the US.  In the US and in many zoos this contraceptive program has proven extremely effective in controlling populations of ungulates and wild horses. This contraception program uses a drug called PZP and can administered without a hands-on approach in its application to the wild horse mares. Even the ability on implementing this to selected mares was outlined to the stakeholders. Information was also presented by a U of Calgary researcher on another drug, Gonacon, which requires an actual hands-on approach to injecting the mares. Both these drugs are actually vaccines and would have no effect on the overall health of the animals that would be treated.

After the two presentations a discussion ensued about the practicality and feasibility of implementing this humane population control. Both WHOAS representatives sat there and were taken aback by the complete lack of understanding displayed by stakeholders and the ESRD staff. It became quite obvious that they really do not spend time in wild horse country. The negativity expressed was disheartening with one stakeholder misrepresenting the information that the cost would be over $1,800 per animal, when the real cost would be less than $80. All aspects of this would be undertaken by WHOAS volunteers and followers and Dr. French’s team and there would be no cost to the ESRD and Alberta taxpayers.

Why on earth would you not want to adopt a proven and extremely humane strategy for wild horse population control unless there is more going on under the table. What would you think?

Another thing that came to light from the ESRD’s statements at this point of the meeting was that they honestly do not have any true information about what effect if any the wild horses do have on the rangeland nor can they state how many horses the environment can sustain. How can you have any management strategy without this information? How can you morally call for the removal of 196 horses in one cull when you do not have this information?

Visitors

Visitors

One thing that many do not realize or want to admit is how much of an aesthetic value the wild horses do represent to Alberta. Over the years we have taken so many people out west to share with them the beauty and free spirit that the wild horses represent to us. Even this past winter we would pile them in our vehicle and off we go to share our love with these first-time visitors. In every case they came away with a new appreciation and love for how wonderful these animals truly are.

From England

From England

Yesterday we took two young women, one who had come all the way from England to have the opportunity to see and spend time with the wild horses. Emily is in the middle with her cousin, Beth, who has only been in Canada a short time. Breaking through this patch of knee deep snow, they soon came to understand how tough the winter had been on the horses. The whole day they were thrilled with the herds of wild horses and other wildlife that we came upon. In this herd in front of them, they even witnessed the stallion letting one of his young male offspring know it was time to leave the herd!

Trying to get my message across

Trying to get my message across

As you can see it will soon be time for the young boy on the right to find some other young boys to hang out with and leave the mares alone.

We then took them to visit the family WHOAS has rescued that are being kept at a member’s ranch. Here they were able to come almost face-to-face to see the true beauty that is in the eyes of these wonderful horses.

Soft eyes

Soft eyes

The gentling process has begun for the three of them which will allow all of them to be adopted out to new forever homes. This process is being done by two of our experienced long-time members who have worked wonders with so many other wildies that have come under our care in the past. The horses are responding well to the excellent care and handling. The mare especially has shown such amazing recuperation.

Joining up

Joining up

This mare is truly beautiful and has such intelligent eyes and shows a willingness to accept the kindness of humans.

Baby and the black stallion

Baby and the black stallion

Curious, but not afraid, the foal and the young stallion would come up to see what was happening with the mare.  Wild horses show an extreme intelligence in their ability to adapt to situations.  It will be only a short time in our care before they can be placed in their new homes.

Despite these positives, it is not a time for anyone opposed to the ESRD’s capture program to stop contacting the Minister, Robin Campbell. With everything happening within the Redford government, it is also important for you to contact your MLA to let them know how you feel about the method used, since this has proven not to be working and is extremely inhumane. Again there were injured horses, a dead mare, a dead fetus and 3 horses sent to slaughter from this year’s capture. Remember, this was only 12 horses. In our opinion this whole process was a disaster so keep voicing your objections strongly. To find your MLA go to the government website and search for your city or town and your MLA will come up with his/her contact information.

Bob

 

 

What's our future

What’s our future

Well the capture season ended on Friday February 28, 2014 with maybe only 20 (?) horses being removed.  We know of only three that were taken for slaughter.  We can only hope that the rest were re-homed as claimed.  I believe that the overwhelming outcry from Albertans and presence of the supporters who camped or attended at the rally camp, was the reason for it only being this number.

WHOAS had requested that there be no capture season this winter for two main reasons:

1/  In 2012 and 2013 there was a very high foal mortality rate.  In those two years members and other supporters reported that at times there was maybe only one foal to every 30-40 adults.  By 2013 even, the number of yearlings left, was down yet again.  It was our argument that with these natural factors affecting herd growth there was no reason to go ahead with a culling of the numbers, especially with the ludicrous numbers that were scheduled to be removed.

Since we agreed with the count presented, only moved up once, of 980 free-roaming wild horses in the vast expanse of Alberta Foothills, it would be an excellent start to track numbers and population growth or decline.  Again this was ignored in favour of the cull concept of what the ESRD calls “management”.

2/  The current winter season started off harshly with unprecedented snow levels in the foothills and mountains where the horses live. Then came the cold! During this time the stakeholders’ meetings were still in progress to determine the “need” for a capture season. WHOAS, based on the previous reason, maintained that again natural factors were going to affect the herd numbers. It was also going to affect the reproduction rate of foals that would be born in the spring of 2014. Again this was ignored.

Wishing for summer

Wishing for summer

The ESRD stakeholder meetings are going to continue with the next one scheduled for March 11th. Dr. Judith Samson-French has been invited to attend in order to present her initiative of a contraception program. WHOAS has thrown our full support behind this and will be funding what costs are necessary to get this program off the ground and running. Therefore, the government cannot say the cost of such a program is too expensive. On a side note, the ESRD spokesperson stated that they were evaluating more than one contraceptive and yet we know of only the one that Dr. French is proposing.

WHOAS sincerely hopes that this contraception program is seriously considered and approved. It is our opinion that there is no reason for it not to be. It is an excellent and very humane management strategy for controlling your wild horse population where control is needed.

Many of you have heard of WHOAS’ plan to purchase some land for a handling and education facility. No matter what there will always be some areas where the wild horses do get into trouble and cause problems for private landowners, principally those who have land next to the forestry. As in the past, it is this small group of horses that sometimes cause negative opinions to arise about them. Previously WHOAS has helped relocate these horses, fixed fence lines, and purchased fencing equipment to help a landowner keep the wildies back on public land. We will continue to do this but for those ones that may need to be dealt with, this facility would allow it to happen in a safe and humane way.

The family

The family

We recently received a request from a private landowner, and working through Mr. Theissen, WHOAS retrieved three of these horses, who were causing a concern on his land. These 3 right now are being kept on one of our member’s ranch while we work at gentling them so that they are safe to be adopted out. It is a possibility that the stallion may be entered in a competition for women where an unbroken horse is taken through the journey of becoming trained.

Going for feed

Going for feed

Also every summer there are young foals that end up in difficulty separated from their herds. People on horseback or quads find them and rescue them and these young animals need a place that they can be gentled and adopted out to forever homes.

Playmates

Playmates

So where do we go from here? No matter what happens with the contraception program, there is one obstacle that needs to be overcome. That is the status. Your wild horses need to have legislation put forth within the provincial legislature that would enable them to be a protected species. This could be with the designation “free-roaming wild” or “heritage”. It definitely has to change from the term “feral” which allows the opponents of these magnificent animals to continue with their negativity and hostile attitude toward them. WHOAS is working on a couple of strategies to move forward with this.

Further, good independent research has to be done to fully understand what role and what effect these heritage animals do have on the ecosystem as it exists now in our Alberta foothills. After attending a presentation in Cochrane, February 28, the material presented was old or very biased against the horses. A lot of the claims made were still very misleading in allowing people to fully understand the wild horses and their home ranges.  As in this presentation, it seems that they continue to look for the negative instead of the positive effect that horses do have on the environment. For example, they are reseeders, depositing unprocessed grass and sedge seeds in the devastated clear cuts where so many of them roam.

The whole issue around the wild horses is not about how many there are or whether they are native or non-native. It boils down to one thing – money. So we encourage you to continue to let the government of Alberta and those in charge of your wild horse decisions, know how you feel. We have attached a couple of sample letters (in .pdf format) you can use as you wish.

R. Campbell letter1rev

R. Campbell letter2

Bob

 

Destroying the rangeland????

Destroying the rangeland????

Watching the news on Wednesday night I sat there in total awe at Premier Redford again stating before the citizens of Alberta, that she supported the cull of your wild horses as they were having a negative impact on the environment.  WHAT!!  How would she know?  Has she ever been out there to observe these beautiful animals co-existing with the other creatures?  Has she observed how little of an impact that they do have on the environment?  Again she is just speaking words put in her mouth by the bearucrats who also lack the research and science to back up any of their claims.

Mismanagement of our natural resources seem prevalent in this province.  Nobody on the government side brings up anything to do with the negative impact cattle are having on the natural environment within the forestry boundaries.  A great example of money before wildlife is found in the Sheep River country south of Calgary.  Here the SRD had created a bighorn sheep sanctuary to protect the herds of sheep that inhabit the area.  They then let in the cattle to graze within the sanctuary during the summer months.  Today you find a sign there telling you that because the sheep do not want to leave the safety of the sanctuary they are eating all the food resources and may become prone to lung worm.

Sheep sign

Sheep sign

Just down the road however, is a sign telling visitors that they allow the cattle to graze here, to reduce the bio-mass in order to improve the sheep range.  So the cattle can eat it but the sheep are destroying it?

Cattle sign

Cattle sign

Little is said about the massive clear cutting that is going on in our foothills.  Where the clear cuts are being taken right down to the creek, muskeg and river edges, therefore providing little protection of these resources from excessive runoff from the rains and melting snow.  Nothing about the astonishing toll of small mammals that are killed or displaced because of it.  Nothing about the destruction of the habitat of so many of our Canadian bird species that use these areas for their breeding and nesting areas.  Nothing about the huge amount of carbon that is released into our atmosphere by this clear cutting, therefore affecting our weather and increasing global warming.  Let alone the destruction of the micro-organisms that give the forest the healthy conditions needed to perpetuate itself.

The other point always brought up is that your wild horses are taking away the grasses needed by the other wildlife.  It is because of the horses that there is so much less deer, elk and moose, it is claimed.  Nothing is said about fragmentation of the habitat and migration routes of the elk and grizzly bear, causing them to seek out alternative habitat outside of the forestry areas.  Also when I talk to many old-timers during my research, they tell me that back in the 1970/80′s there were many more horses than there are today out in the foothills but also that there was large herds of elk and deer and lots of moose.  All co-existed without having a negative impact on the other.

When blaming the horses and/or the wolves for what is wrong in our west country no one from the government or opponents to the wild horses are willing to admit that these other factors are having an effect.  The only scientific research done is way back in the 70′s by Richard Salter, that showed that there is little conflict between the species who co-habitate these regions.  Research by Irving in 2001 showed that the horses have little affect on the regeneration of seedlings within re-planted areas.  Yet without scientific evidence or research the false accusations against your wild horses continues, even by the Premier of our Province.

980 wild horses

980 wild horses

Therefore in this vast area lives, according to March 2013 count, 980 wild horses.  How many are too many, no one in the ESRD knows.  They just say there are too many and their numbers are ballooning out of control.  Really?  High foal mortality in 2012 and 2013 are not noted.  The devastating toll that mother nature is taking on all wildlife and the horses was not considered before a capture season was declared this year.

WHOAS has always maintained that yes, the wild horse numbers have to be managed properly.  Current practises are not the way to manage them effectively.  WHOAS has solutions to help, but we and a great majority of Albertans, are ignored.  The current government advisory committee that was set up was engineered for a specific outcome by the ESRD.  That outcome was to go ahead with the capture of 196 head of horses this year, over 20% of the total population of your wildies here in the province.  No other result was wanted, but this drastic reduction.  Also there were so many comments  put before the public to defend this action which were not true.

The right to live free

The right to live free

With the support of other groups and a growing number of Albertans we hope that things can be changed in the future.  A contraception program, re-designation of the wild horses out of the category of feral and being governed under the Stray Animal Act and (only if absolutely necessary), a compulsory adoption program of any horses that may have to be removed from a certain area.  Having the wild horses re-designated  is strongly opposed by those opponents who wish to continue to treat the horses with the disrespect and callous attitudes they have now. In the future it is hoped that maybe in the management strategy, only the specific areas where the wild horses may be causing a concern, would their numbers be looked at.  Instead of looking at the horses as having no financial value, like other industries, to consider them with an aesthetic value and a huge potential for an eco-tourist resource.

The hair piece

The hair piece

There is a better way and it is about time the government of Alberta leave behind the old prejudices and look at our wild horses for the significant value that they have given us in both our history and culture.

WHOAS and other concerned Albertans will continue to fight for this now and in the future.

Bob.

 

 

 

 

 

Dashing through the snow

Escaping through the snow

As the capture season continues so does the immense uprising of dissent against the capture of your beautiful wild horses.  The overwhelming support that the wild horses have found, grows each and every day.

At the entrance to the Williams Creek Road that leads to one of the trapping site a large entourage of supporters have set up camp.  There even is one young lady who has remained out there monitoring the horses being removed 24 hours a day even in the frigid temperatures.  This shows the amazing dedication of people to work toward saving your wild horses.  Every day she is joined by other supporters who also show their support.

The camp

The camp

I don’t think words can ever express my gratitude for all of these people who support the wild horses and continue to let their feelings and well wishes be expressed on the “Help Alberta Wildies” Facebook page.  Also the emails and comments I get here are very uplifting as our fight continues.

The trapping season is supposed to end on February 28, 2014 as per the regulation, however the ESRD continues to play games with the lives of your wild horses.  The talk was going around about them extending the capture season to allow the “quotas” to be met.  When the question was put to the two ESRD staff in charge of the permit process, about the extension, both stated “no decision has been made.” This was the same statement they made 2 days prior to announcing the cull in January. Again they show that they are not willing to be up front and honest with the citizens of Alberta. Can we really trust them?

Heavy in foal

Heavy in foal

This picture shows a typical small herd where, at this time of year, two of mares are heavy in foal and approaching term. An extension of the capture season to reach the supposed quota could mean that mares similar to these would be caught up in the pens. This act in itself would be extremely inhumane, let alone the distress that they would undergo following the capture and transportation to the meat buyers. The ESRD continues to say that the capture methods are humane (really??). One would guess they have no understanding or do they really care about the overall welfare of these beautiful animals.

A contraception program is being developed by Dr. Judith Samson-French and the WHOAS Board of Directors has thrown their full support behind her efforts. We will provide financial aide to get this program off the ground. Therefore the government will have no excuse to state that this is too expensive to undertake. Also despite their claims of contraception of mares being new and unproven, it has been successfully used for many years in the United States in other wild horse herds. This is a positive solution to manage the wild horse population and there would be no need to capture and send them to slaughter.

Winter's hardships

Winter’s hardships

Winter continues to cause extreme hardships on the wild horses. If you look closely at the mare at the back in the trees you can see the toll that winter has taken on her. There are many more like her including young ones out there. They need to be allowed just to survive without having to undergo an extended capture season dictated by the whims of the uncaring government bureaucrats.

It is so important, and we can’t emphasis enough, that you continue to contact the minister of the ESRD.

Honourable Robin Campbell
Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
323 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5K 2B6

Phone: 780 427-2391
Email: robin.campbell@gov.ab.ca

Also Premier Redford:

Premier Alison Redford
Office of the Premier
307 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5K 2B6

Phone: 780 427-2251
E-mail: premier@gov.ab.ca

Please let them know how you feel toward the capture season of your Alberta wild horses and to please listen to “the voice” of Albertans.

Bob

 

Speaking out

Speaking out

 

Supporters of the wild horses have held a couple of rallies so far this month attempting to get their voices heard about the current capture season and overall getting them better protected.  There are two more coming :

Saturday, February 22, 2014
1:00pm

Red Deer City Hall - 914-48th Ave, Red Deer, Alberta

Come Rally with us and make our voices HERD again. This time on a Saturday!!!

The one and only goal of our effort is saving our Wild Horses. We are Canadians, Albertans, as people and a province we have come to love the Wild Horses in our Foothills. On Saturday we will unite and speak on behalf of the beloved beauties we aim to keep around for years to come, The Wild Horses.

We have asked the government questions and have not got sufficient answers.

We are concerned that NO count has been conducted since ……March of 2013 by ESRD after the flooding and record snow fall. We NEED an official recount!!!

We are concerned that scientific methods of population control are not being considered a viable solution.

We need answers regarding the steering committee and the interests that make decisions. We believe there to be a great conflict of interest here.

I believe we have been fair in the questions we have asked and we have a right to answers!

Our bottom line is…….. STOP THE CULL……… COUNT THE HORSES!!!!!       

The one in Calgary is this Saturday.

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Your wild horses desperately need your help to save them from the irrational and ludicrous decisions being made by the ESRD. Since this whole episode began and after hearing Premier Redford’s statements to the media yesterday, it has become very obvious that she and the Minister, Robin Campbell, are just puppets in the hands of the senior bureaucrats of the ESRD. It is like a ventriloquist’s puppet (Redford and Campbell) that seems to be talking to you when it really is just the ventriloquist (ESRD). This goes to prove that our elected MLAs and the Premier have absolutely no interest in listening to a vast majority of Albertans. Again it seems they are told what to say and how to act by these bureaucrats who have nothing to lose since their pensions are secure.

I am angry as you can tell as the ESRD seems to be listening to the companies and industries that put money into the Conservatives. Research and science are discounted as being “emotional” and disregarded. Financial gain for a few individuals and companies opposed to the free-roaming wild horses takes precedence over anything. It is evident that they care little about our living natural resources and even less about what the citizens of Alberta have to say. They just refuse to admit that they may be wrong. It is proven over and over again when it comes to environmental issues – clearcut logging, damage to our watersheds, destruction of habitat and endangering of several species of our Alberta wildlife, including the horses – there is rampant mismanagement. Why would anyone trust the government of Alberta when it talks about environmental stewardship? There is none. A sad day.

Join in the rallies if you can. Continue to email and write the Premier. Especially contact your local MLA expressing your concerns and ask for honest answers and not just a vocalization of what ESRD wants them to say. Don’t give up the fight.

Bob

 

 

Snow Bound

Snow Bound

The capture season of our free-roaming wild horses continues with the ESRD refusing to provide the number of captured horses so far. The controversy surrounding the reasons for going ahead this winter continue. The propaganda about EIA has been now downplayed as there is lack of evidence to substantiate this concern. The research provided to us from the New England Institute of Comparative Medicine, and from veterinarians in the know, demonstrate how EIA is less contagious than other viral diseases and is considered to be innocuous.

Then we come to the numbers game. A spokeswoman for the ESRD stated in the Calgary Herald this week that the wild horse numbers are ballooning out of control. They continually state that the whole population is west of Sundre only. This is totally incorrect. They use the count from 2013 which showed there were 980 wild horses throughout the 6 equine areas. We do not dispute this. Do not forget though that this is an extremely large and diverse area and that many wild horses in this vast of a range does not appear to be “out of control.”  When the 2013 count was first released, the number was 853 and that was the number of the free-roaming wild horses portrayed to be in these areas. Later that number grew to 980. When questioned by one of our members and a person who had participated in the counts, why such a difference? They were told that in the past they never included the horses in the Brazeau Equine area, which is north of Nordegg. The other point to make is that during 2013′s count, the conditions were perfect as for each day flown, there was fresh snow on the ground and very easy to spot any horse activity. They then use the comparative numbers of 778 horses counted in 2012, to come up with their argument about the explosive horse population. Hmmmm? Anyone would question that if they normally do not include the horses in the north zone, why are they including them now? If they did not in 2012 and based on their numbers, if we were to include them, that would bring the total to 905 instead of 778. An alleged population growth of maybe 75 wild horses compared to what they are saying now of 202. This is where they get their statement that reproduction of the wild horses is 25% a year.

Now, except for their counts, no studies have ever been done here in Alberta to determine reproduction rates of the free-roaming wild horses. In the United States, however, even the BLM who manages the very large wild horse population down there, state that their wild horses reproduce at a rate of maybe 20%. The habitat for a large portion of these herds is completely different and less hostile than for our Alberta free-roaming wild horses. A study compiled over 12 years in the US by groups who closely monitor several different wild horse areas in various states, indicates that under ideal conditions, the horses reproduction rates of about 10%. Now you factor in Alberta’s harsh winters, very wet springs (high foal mortality during this time due to scours and pneumonia) and several predators (cougar and wolf in particular), one would tend to question the ESRD’s numbers again.  No matter what the reproduction rate, what is the survival rate of foals, where is the study on that?  In fact a large number of Albertans believe that the numbers have been manipulated to the advantage of the ESRD and opponents of the free-roaming wild horses to facilitate their current reasoning.

One other point in regards to the numbers is that everyone we talk to including a large wildlife photographer’s group, outfitters, and first-time visitors to the free-roaming wild horses, is how few foals and yearlings are with the herds now. An aerial count, by some Albertans, done on February 8th, 2014, in a very large area, again showed a discrepancy between what was seen and what the ESRD portrays the numbers to be.  Again this count indicated very few foals or yearlings.

We have all these numbers but a very important point we would like to bring out is that when the deputy minister was specifically asked in a meeting in 2012, how many free-roaming wild horses can the range adequately sustain, the response was “we do not know.” And the answer is still the same today. Wow!!!

Another point is that in the past a capture ratio was to be 3 studs to one mare. Then recently it was changed so that any free-roaming wild horse that entered the pen was fair game (foals and pregnant mares). The statement made was that this was the quickest way to reduce the population and was easier on the permit holders. Why were they able to segregate the animals in the past and not now?

Dr. Claudia Notzke provides that, “credible research shows that a cull of over 20 percent of the entire wild horse population in the Foothills is an extremely hard-hitting and traumatic incident for the wild horses. It is even more excessive when concentrated on smaller regional populations a large percentage of which will be simply wiped out.

Such excessive cull has a number of consequences in addition to a short term population reduction.  Drastic measures such as these actually cause an increase in the animals’ rate of reproduction, a phenomenon called “compensatory reproduction” which is coupled with a severe disruption of equine society in a desperate attempt to survive as individuals as well as a species.  In such situation much younger and immature animals start breeding, uncontrolled and unguided by more mature ones, as the leadership of the family groups as represented by lead mare and herd stallion is often disrupted by captures. Where under normal circumstances -with strict enforcement of discipline by the leadership- wild horses often only start breeding at an age of 4 or 5 years (and males even later), population loss and severe social trauma will induce breeding of 1-2 year olds, with young immature animals trying to raise young.  It also contributes to inbreeding which is normally avoided under all circumstances.  Many people don’t realize just how complex wild horse society is, and how severely it can be impacted by extreme events, not unlike human society.

Observations in the US, for example those by the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB), have clearly shown that heavy-handed interference and destruction of equine social structure results in extremely high fertility rates whereas a hands-off management strategy (“minimal feasible management”) produces much lower reproduction.  Consequently the current ESRD approach to free-roaming horse population control must be judged as entirely counter-productive.

A cyclical rise and fall of numbers around a homeostatic norm is typical for unmanaged, self-regulating populations, as exemplified by Sable Island’s wild horses, who are protected by Parks Canada as wildlife.

The wild horses in the Brittany Triangle, B.C., have for decades been subject to a hands-off management approach by the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation.  While a few are captured for domestic use, periodic helicopter and ground counts indicate that the small and isolated horse herds are either stable or declining, with a low foal to yearling survival rate. The Brittany Triangle is in the lee of the coast range with similar natural characteristics as the foothills of Alberta including the full guild of North American large predators and severe winter conditions.

Wild horse populations who are traumatized, spooked, stressed and eventually inbred will lose much of their value as a cultural, genetic, economic and environmental resource.  For those of us who view these animals as more than a resource, actions producing such state are also morally and ethically reprehensible.”

A document containing this research data was provided to the ESRD in October, 2013, and again, science was ignored.

Another point is that research being done by several individuals indicates that in the 1960′s and 1970′s wild horse populations in these same equine areas were at much higher levels than they even are now. These numbers came from the government’s own forest superintendents of these green areas, as they were called then. In fact, in 1967 for example, 318 wild horses were captured. Things like this and the indiscriminate killing and inhumane treatment of these beautiful animals led a group of individuals to forge ahead and have the 1993 horse capture regulations put into effect, to try to protect the horses better.

The only Alberta research on competition among the animals that graze on these lands was done by R. Salter from 1975 – 1977. He showed that the horses really did not compete even with cattle for the available forage. Little research exists to elucidate the actual ecological impacts and social relationships of free-roaming horses in the particular ecological, cultural and political context of the Alberta foothills, or to support management decisions concerning the horses. Remember also that horses are natural seeders and they are continually on the move while seeking out feed. No matter what proof and research that is out there to dispel a lot of the misinformation about our Alberta free-roaming wild horses, the current ESRD continues to move along with their own agenda.

We believe that there is no valid reason to continue a capture season this year considering all the different and vast amounts of seemingly distorted information being relayed to Albertans. It is obvious that the ESRD minister, Robin Campbell, is completely misled or unwilling to consider other points of view. Therefore, we would suggest just letting Premier Redford know of your concerns.”

“Keep the land, water, animals and future generations alive in your heart, mind and soul
Keep it above the rest, above the negative business -
Thank you all for keeping it above all else – see it, believe it and we will achieve it!” 

A quote from a past chief of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations who fought to protect their wild horses and lands in BC.

Bob