editorial: Saving Alberta’s Wild Horses
Adrienne Calvert – Toronto: I am writing today as a concerned Canadian citizen. If you are like many urban Canadians, you may not realize that we are privileged to call these magnificent wild horses our own. Recently I learned of the Alberta Governments intent to distribute trapping licenses for the purpose of “culling” our wild horses. I’m personally dismayed and extremely concerned. Like many horse loving Canadians I had always assumed our wild horses were protected nationally. Why wouldn’t they be? The Newfoundland ponies and sable island horses are protected and considered an endangered species so common sense would conclude that the wild horses of Alberta and British Columbia share the same right to life and protection under the Law. What I have uncovered in my quest to find answers has disturbed me and will most certainly cause an outcry from other equine loving Canadians.
How quickly we have forgotten that it was the horse that helped us conquer this land, farm our food and transport us from one place to another. Horses arrived in the Americas in the year 1493 with Columbus and as the Spanish explored and claimed more territory in the new world the horse also began to populate the land. By the 1500’s horses were an integral part of Native life and in approximately 1630 the Blackfoot tribe brought the first horse to what is now known as Alberta. Through tribal battles and escape these horses began to roam free and have been ever since. The missionary John McDougal noted in his journal dated in the 1850’s, sightings of wild horses and moose being preyed upon by wolves in the areas between the North Saskatchewan and Oldman Rivers. The history of the Canadian Mustang is very much part of our great heritage. For example, during WW1 the mustang was routinely captured to serve as our comrade in War. The entire western Canadian culture is centered on the horse. These animals have evolved alongside us and without their loyalty the very existence of our Country could have been far different than what we know it as today.
When people are asked what their idea of Canada and the wild west is, for most the first thing that comes to mind is the great horse, and cowboys of course. Our wild horses are Internationally identified as a Canadian symbol along with the polar bear, the beaver, the moose and caribou. So I must ask, why are they not also protected? Throughout civilized society there have been numerous books, movies & songs based on our wild ones, but against our traditional Canadian values, our Government has instead chosen to treat our wild horses as a feral and invasive species instead of the Canadian icon they truly are. DNA testing and ongoing research has traced the rare bloodlines in these herds to the Spanish mustang with a long and amazing migration history. The argument that horses are not native to Canada is void of common sense; they evolved exclusively in North America over 56 million years ago and the modern horse appeared here approximately 4 million years ago.
Today there are less then 800 of these amazing equine remaining in Alberta’s foothills. 31% of the Alberta herd has been captured in the last two trapping seasons and most were auctioned off to slaughter for human consumption. These creatures live a harsh and unprotected life. They have numerous natural predators, there is no need for man to legally become another. Some argue that the wild horse takes away from the natural food sources for deer, and some say wild horses destroy seedlings planted by the lumber industry. The Government states that the wild horse is feral and while I would not dispute that there are domestic horses turned loose this does not negate the fact that history clearly proves wild horses have exist for centuries in our Country, if not longer. Any person with a basic understanding of equine anatomy can take one look at these wild horses and tell you without a doubt they are not feral domestic horses. Many in the scientific community who have spent years researching and studying wild horses internationally, have shown the modern horse is directly linked to the prehistoric Equus lambei and therefore, in fact, wild horses are a reintroduced native species and in no way feral.
There is a catastrophe-taking place in Canada and in the United States. The wild mustang is being sacrificed for our generations’ idea of a prosperous future. The beef industry needs more space for commercial farming, oil needs to be found, drilled and exported, the lumber companies want to avoid having to deal with another protected species and the Government is more concerned with the value of the immediate dollar than that of our history and traditional horse loving culture. Your heritage is for sale folks, speak now or forever hold your peace.
The great wild horse has been here alongside us since we first explored and settled this land, and it is our duty to protect them. Time is of the essence. We have stood at these crossroads before and lost many species by choosing to ignore their value and the validity of their contribution to our great Nation. Let’s not let that happen again! I urge you now to call for a halt the 2012 – 2013 cull of Alberta’s wild horses and join us, the concerned Canadian citizens and International equine lovers, in requesting the Government of Alberta and British Columbia create a “Heritage Species Act” and finally protect the Canadian wild horses, forever.
Learn how YOU can save our wild horses & sign the petition here: