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Letter: Sundre zone's feral horse group numbers questioned

The Alberta government employs highly trained and experienced personnel to conduct aerial ‘game’ surveys, says letter writer

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

I believe some information contained therein needs to be clarified.

The Alberta government employs highly trained and experienced personnel to conduct aerial ‘game’ surveys. If this is not possible, certified contractors are utilized. 

In most cases highly equipped helicopters are flown with pilot, navigator-coordinator and two observers. Traditional transect lines using GPS coordinates are followed to eliminate biases. 

Unequipped fixed-winged aircraft with untrained pilots, and survey personnel, are never utilized primarily due to safety.

For example, being a 34-year employee of the AB Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Service, I  received my Search and Rescue spotter-observer training from the RCAF in Hercules and Kiowa aircraft. 

I conducted or participated in numerous wildlife surveys and enforcement missions. I concluded my employment with 2,000 hours of fixed-wing and 1,500 hours of rotary-winged flying. 

The tactical aspect of my flying resulted in the unusually high contact of 2,200 resource users, and the arrest of 167 individuals.

One notable project, which I feel is very relevant to the article in question, was my involvement as advisor, to the Base Commander, at CFB Suffield; re: the background and eventual humane adoption of 1,240 feral horses from the base in 1993. 

A great deal of universal feral and wild horse background research was conducted, along with hundreds of hours of aerial census. Most of this work was done decades before the existence of any Alberta free roaming horse advocacy groups. 

As a result of this very successful, but often misinterpreted, roundup, the re-introduction of the prairie grazer, wapiti (elk), was made possible four years later. These elk are now the largest free-roaming herd of its kind in Canada.

It’s my respectful opinion that anyone who disputes the Alberta government’s methods, or results, of aerial animal surveying, is spewing pure horse manure.

Murray Bates,


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