Canadian Wild Horses at Center of Controversy

Canadian Wild Horses at Center of Controversy

About 550 feral horses roam the Alberta wilderness, Henderson said.

Photo: Bob Henderson

A Canadian logging company wants the number of free-roaming horses in Alberta reduced, but a Canadian wild horse advocacy group argues that the company's complaints against the horses are unfounded.

Canadian Wild Horses

Henderson believes there are about 550 feral horses living in Alberta.

Sundre Forest Products' spokesperson Tom Daniels said the herds have grown too numerous for the area, are destroying young seedling trees, and are sometimes even aggressive toward forest workers, CBC News Canada reported.

But Bob Henderson, president of the Wild Horses of Alberta Society, based in Olds, Alberta, said the horses are causing no harm and are living harmoniously with nature.

"The information being put out by the logging conglomerates is basically a fabrication based on lack of facts or scientific evidence," Henderson said.

He said the number of free-roaming horses--550 according to his estimates--is well within the limits of the million-acre-plus grazing area capacity.

Horses can overgraze forest areas, but it's very unusual and not likely, according to Ana de Villalobos, PhD, researcher for the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET) at the Universidad Nacional de Sur, Argentina. Her recent study on wild horses' effects on pine seedlings was published in Environmental Research earlier this year.

"Perhaps the situation described in Alberta is the result of a temporary lack or decrease of forage," she said. "But conifer seedlings are not usually palatable to ungulates and others herbivores. In my experience, the only mortality of pine seedling caused by horses recorded was due to accidental trampling."

The claims that the horses are aggressive are also questionable, according to Henderson. "In my years of spending time with the wild horses I have never found one that could even remotely be called ferocious," he said, adding that stallions often "bluff"--by snorting, blowing, and starting to charge before stopping--to protect their herds.

Sundre Forest Products could not be reached for comment. It is unknown what, if any, action will be taken on the situation.

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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