Feral mustang horses in Alberta, Canada attacked loggers, caused traffic accidents and damaged seedlings, accused Sundre Forest Products. They want the number of mustangs cut in half or removed entirely. A spokesman for Wild Horses Society of Alberta, Bob Henderson, called the charges “unscientific and false.”
Sundre Forest Products has a 20-year lease on 650 million hectares of Alberta forests. The company claims to plant five million pine tree seedlings a year to replace the harvested trees. Company spokesperson Tom Daniels notes that “an unknown number” of seedlings are damaged by hungry horses or trampled by hooves. So far, the government has not taken any action.
Let the Controversy Begin
Daniels claims that Alberta is home to over 1000 mustangs. Wild Horses Society of Alberta claims the actual number living on the over one million acres is around 500 to 550. Since mustangs are so wary, it is difficult to count them or even approach one. Henderson notes that mustangs flee from danger rather than attack. Stallions may charge at an intruder but do not make contact. This maneuver is only a bluff.
Henderson notes that ecological damage from logging companies like Sundre Forest Products is far worse than anything the mustangs can. “The biodiversity is probably changed forever.”
Henderson also claims that mustangs rarely eat pine seedlings. His statement is backed up by Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council researcher Ana de Villalobos, PhD, who wrote a study on mustangs and pine seedlings published earlier in 2011 in Environmental Research. “But conifer seedlings are not usually palatable to ungulates and other herbivores. In my experience, the only mortality of pine seedling caused by horses recorded was due to accidental trampling.”
Feral mustangs are decedents of domesticated horses that either escaped or were abandoned by their masters and technically are not truly wild animals. Horses originated on the North American continent but were all extinct by the time Native American tribes colonized the continent. Horses were reintroduced to the continent by Columbus during his second voyage in 1493.
By 1900, mustangs were considered a nuisance in both North and South America and were slaughtered by the millions, primarily for pet food. Mustangs ever since have been shot for “sport” or by ranchers. Mustang herds in the United States and Canada face an uncertain future. Very few feral horses exist in South America.
In 2007, 22 mustangs were discovered shot dead in Sundre Forest Products areas. The case remains unsolved, despite a $25,000 (CAN) reward for information about these shootings. In 2009, three horses were shot, including a heavily pregnant mare. In all cases, bodies were left to rot.
CBC News Canada. “Alberta has too many wild horses, forester says.” August 4, 2011. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/story/2011/08/04/calgary-wild-horses-forestry.html
The Horse. “Canadian Wild Horses at Center of Controversy.” Christa Leste-Lasserre. September 8, 2011. http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=18793
The Wild Horses of Alberta Society