Feral Horse Capture FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about Feral Horses


What is a feral horse capture season?

A capture season allows licence holders to catch feral horses in designated areas of Alberta during a given time period, usually November 1 to March 1.

The government is allowed to issue these licences under the Horse Capture Regulation under Alberta’s Stray Animal Act. This regulation also ensures the humane treatment of feral horses during the capture.

How many horses are in the southern East Slopes?

In 2014, 880 feral horses were counted. The population number of 880 reflects only those horses physically observed during the 2-3 days dedicated to undertaking a count from a helicopter - the actual number of horses will be higher.

Is the horse population growing?

Yes, high reproduction rates, low rates of capture and increasing numbers of escaped and illegally released horses have significantly increased the population and area distribution of feral horses. There has been a significant increase in the number of horses counted since 2006.

Why is it necessary to control horse numbers?

Feral horses need to be controlled because they are not part of our natural ecosystems, their population can grow very quickly, and they can put serious pressure on our native plants and animals.

Feral horses like to gather in grassland areas, especially native grasslands like rough fescue. Grasslands are a very popular food source in Alberta – both for wildlife, like elk, and for livestock, like cattle. These areas are sensitive to over-grazing. Alberta’s feral horse population eats the same grasses as other species do, and they tend to graze heavily in the spring. To prevent overgrazing, we need to keep their population manageable.

Additionally, research we’ve done shows that feral horses have very few natural predators – they’re sometimes killed by wolves and cougars, but not often. With no natural check on their population, wild horse populations can quickly grow too big for the landscape to support.

Why not remove the cattle from the impacted area and leave it to the horses and other wildlife?

Cattle grazing use is strictly managed to ensure rangelands remain healthy and sustainable. While the removal of domestic livestock grazing would allow for the presence of more horses, this capacity would still be limited and lead to the need to control horse numbers at some time in the future.


How many horses will be removed in the winter of 2013-14?

Licences will be issued for the capture of up to 200 animals.

How are horses captured?

Horses are usually captured using baited corrals. Snares and weapons cannot be used. It is illegal under the Criminal Code of Canada to shoot the horses or tamper with the baited corrals.

Who may capture horses?

A person with a licence issued by ESRD can capture horses inside the designated capture area. Licence holders are screened by ESRD and the RCMP for experience, facilities, and any history of animal welfare concerns.

What happens to horses that are captured?

Captured horses become the property of the license holder, who may keep the horses for personal use or sell them. Some horses may also be made available for adoption through horse rescue organizations.

Where are the designated capture areas?

Licences will be issued for areas where feral horses are having a negative impact on native lands and animals. This is determined through population counts and range condition evidence.

Licences are issued for specific zones within the designated Horse Capture area (see map). See Designated Horse Capture Area Map at:


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Updated: Jun 10, 2014