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Sundre zone's feral horse numbers 'misleading,' says local group

Help Alberta Wildies Society president says government spotters flew many more miles when gathering the latest feral horse statistics than in 2022
Darrell Glover, with the Help Alberta Wildies Society, assesses how to help a roughly two year-old feral mare out of a muskeg pit in Clearwater County in 2020. His passion blossomed years ago in 2014 upon learning about a cull on the free-roaming horse populations, which he has since striven to protect. File photo

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - An Olds-based non-profit society that watches over the feral horse population in Alberta, including west of Sundre, says recent provincial counts do not reflect the true number of animals on the landscape.

There are six equine management zones in the province: Brazeau, Nordegg, Clearwater, Sundre, Ghost River and Elbow.

The government said a recent count of feral horses found 969 in Sundre, 311 in Ghost River, 97 in Clearwater, 33 in Nordegg, 18 in Brazeau, and an estimate of 84 in Elbow, he said.

The province counted the horses using spotters in aircraft.

Darrell Glover is president and co-founder of the Help Alberta Wildies Society (HAWS). He says the horse population numbers released as part of the new feral horse management framework are “misleading and inaccurate and put Alberta’s wild horse population at risk.”

Specifically, he says the government spotters flew many more miles when gathering the latest statistics than in 2022, creating an inaccurate impression that the horse population is rising steeply.

“We at HAWS did a parallel aerial count of the Sundre zone and found that numbers to be static. The government flew further in the Sundre zone this year and told nobody about why they come up with a 51 per cent increase in the Sundre zone of 969 horses,” he said.

“Considering this year’s government flight path was the same as flown in 2018, with 1,015 horses spotted, the truth is the count is actually lower.”

Asked why the government would want to inflate the population numbers, he said, “It’s my impression they have done it intentionally to get the public on the side of, yeah, the number are skyrocketing again, which means they are likely planning a cull next year. 

“I really believe they are trying to condition the public that the Sundre levels are too high and they are going to want to remove horses.”

Glover’s comments came following the release of a new provincial management framework for Alberta’s feral horse population.

Todd Loewen, minister of Alberta Forestry and Parks, said, “While past efforts to inform and engage Albertans on feral horses were unsuccessful, our management framework outlines clear, simple and honest efforts that we hope will resonate with Albertans and ensure we maintain the sustainability of the landscape where feral horses live.” 

The new framework will “ensure the future sustainability of the feral horses while addressing significant challenges to the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem because of the number of horses on the landscape,” he said. 

Without a framework in place, feral horses can negatively affect wildlife, birds, fish, cattle and vegetation in the areas where the horses live, he said.

An Alberta Forestry and Parks spokesperson did not immediately return a call from the Albertan seeking comment and further information.

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