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A total of 11 wild horses, coralled recently in the Takhini River valley, are being kept in a Whitehorse stable while the Yukon government tries to auction them off. ((CBC))

The Yukon government has captured one of the territory's last herds of wild horses and is putting them up for public auction, in the hopes that someone will want to rehabilitate the herd.

Eleven skittish horses are currently being kept at a Whitehorse horse-boarding stable, after wranglers recently corralled them in the Takhini River valley west of the city.

Yukon government officials say the free-ranging horses have, over the years, posed traffic hazards for motorists on the Alaska Highway west of Whitehorse.

Animal control officer Paul Heynen said he has spent years trying to capture the Takhini Valley herd of wild horses, but the animals have proven to be elusive.

"I can have a report that they're out there and I can be there in an hour and they're gone. You know, they're just like ghosts … poof, and they're gone," Heynen told CBC News.

'Full-class rodeo going on'

Heynen and other government officials stepped up their capturing efforts after two horses were killed in vehicle collisions last month.

Eventually, Heynen and some wranglers succeeded in baiting the horses into trip-gated corrals several weeks ago.

"Of course, they didn't like it. They were trying to get over the top, but it took a lot of work to get them in the trailers," he recalled.

Heynen said corralling the horses was akin to "a full-class rodeo going on there, especially with the stallion attacking you and everything, because that's his brood of mares."

"So he attacked us quite a few times while we were trying to get him in the trailers," he said. "It was fun."

A total of 19 horses were captured, eight of which were later claimed by their owners. Of the remaining 11 horses, four have not been claimed by their owners and seven have no known owners.

Roaming free for years

Territorial government officials said at least two or three herds of wild horses have been roaming around southwest Yukon for at least 20 years.

"I've heard all sorts of rumours — everything from they could be Elijah Smith's horses to old outfitter horses that were let loose and never rounded up," said Tony Hill, director of the government's agriculture branch.

"We think there's probably 10 to 12 horses still out there and we're trying to capture them. We have corrals set up, but they're pretty adapted to living on their own and they don't always come to baited corrals."

Sealed auction bids for the 11 captured horses can be submitted to the Yukon government until 6 p.m. PT Saturday.

Hill said he would like to see the horses go to a good home in Yukon.

"You know people can put them to work and train these horses," he said. "They're obviously pretty smart Yukon horses, so it would be nice to see them stay here."