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Feral horses management framework announced

New framework includes a pilot project with the Olds-based Wild Horses of Alberta Society to issue capture permits
Feral horses walk along the James River near Bearberry. The small herd included a number of colts. File photo/MVP Staff

SUNDRE - The provincial government has announced a new management framework for Alberta’s feral horse population, which includes more than 900 in the Sundre area, officials said Monday.

“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,” said Todd Loewen, minister of Forestry and Parks. 

“Alberta’s feral horses are part of our culture and are appreciated by many Albertans.”

The new framework will ensure the future sustainability of the horse 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.

Developed with input from the Feral Horse Advisory Committee, the framework includes a pilot project with the Olds-based Wild Horses of Alberta Society where capture permits are issued to place distressed or nuisance feral horses into adoption programs, he said.

The Feral Horse Management Framework document released Monday states that “managing feral horse populations in Alberta will be guided by the following principles developed in consultation with a wide range of stakeholder groups: 

• An ongoing presence of feral horses in the Horse Capture Area while recognizing the need to steward the landscape in an ecologically sustainable manner

• Continue supporting feral horse research and monitoring as essential components of active and adaptive feral horse management.

“The Feral Horse Management Framework is not intended to be a regional or sub-regional plan. This framework focuses on the feral horse component of the landscape and will be integrated into future regional planning and/or integrated resource management exercises,” the framework states.

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

A recent government ‘minimum count’ of feral horses in the province found 969 in Sundre, 311 in Ghost River, 97 in Clearwater, 33 in Nordegg, 18 in Brazeau, and an estimated of 84 in Elbow.

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