Feral Horses in Alberta
Shooting or hunting horses is illegal according to Section 444 of the Criminal Code of Canada
Albertans have a strong emotional connection to feral horses due, in part, to their role in settling the West. In North America, wild horses have been captured and tamed for centuries. These horses have been used to:
- Help with labour in the fields
- Improve quality of life in a variety ways
- Provide people with a means of transportation
Most of the original bands of Alberta’s feral horses, are found west of the town of Sundre. The majority of these are believed to be descendants of domestic horses used in logging and guiding/outfitting operations in the early 1900s. When these horses were no longer needed, they were abandoned or released. Over the years, escaped and illegally released horses have continually been added to the population, creating the bands present today.
Every summer, rangelands on the eastern slopes produce a finite amount of forage on primary range. Since the horse population is expanding, a population management program is necessary to ensure there are minimal adverse effects on other landscape users (i.e. wildlife, forestry, livestock and recreationalists). A balance has to be met between all landscape users and the land in a way that does not degrade the long-term viability of the landscape and vegetation. To proactively manage the horse population, an adaptive round-up program has been utilized to maintain an ecologically sustainable population on the landscape.
In the early 1990s, concerns about mistreatment of horses captured on public land led the Alberta government to create the Horse Capture Regulation under the Stray Animals Act. This regulation was developed to ensure humane treatment of feral horses during round-up and restricted the use of inhumane methods of capture, including the use of snares.
Updated: Feb 2, 2016