A conservation group wants more protection for the hundreds of wild horses that roam near Alberta's foothills.

The Wild Horses of Alberta Society is calling on the government to declare them a "heritage species."

"We strongly believe that if they're given this designation then a proper management strategy can be put in place," said society member Bob Henderson.

Each year the province surveys the population — which was roughly 800 last year — and decides whether to issue capture licences, which leads to some of the horses going to the slaughterhouse.

Jessica Potter, a spokeswoman with the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, says the herds need to be managed.

"Otherwise they are competing with native animals and livestock, as well as having a significant impact on the ecological health of an area," she said. "So we want is to maintain a healthy population."

Herd management under review

Alberta's environment department has not made a decision on whether to issue any licences for the capture of wild horses yet this year, and it's currently reviewing how it manages the herds.

Members of the Wild Horses of Alberta Society want the province to ensure the animals are not taken to the slaughterhouse.

Henderson has been photographing the horses for years in the hills around Sundre.

"The last two years they've removed over 300 head of horses, most of them going for slaughter," he said.

He says the horses that are captured to keep the population under control should be taken care of and protected.


The goal of the Wild Horses of Alberta Society is to ensure the conservation and humane treatment of the province's free-roaming horses. (Wild Horses of Alberta Society )