No real solution to rein in wild horses in Canwood, Sask.
There aren't any clear cut solutions to how the RM of Canwood could deal with a group of wild horses that has been wrecking crops and creating a hazard for drivers in the area.
In a story CBC News ran Thursday, Colin Hughes, the Reeve of the municipality, said most of the horses are coming from a neighbouring First Nation in the Big River area.
Derek Klein, a band administrator for the Big River First Nation, said they've been dealing with the issue of horses getting out of the reserve for the past three to four years.
He explains that the band does not own horses, it's people living on reserve who do.
Klein said some farmers don't have enough pasture land for the animals, so recently they got some more land leases to be able to keep the horses and cows.
But he admits he's heard of people letting horses go if they don't have the ability to take care of them.
"We try to educate our members, and say, you know what, if you've already got your 10 horses and are having trouble feeding them or looking after them, please don't get any more, bring them to our community pen and we'll take care of them," he said.
But sometimes horses are released through negligence, he said, where snowmobilers open the gates, but don't shut them. Horses running loose wind up on highways, causing a hazard for drivers.
"We hire cowboys, we're always hiring guys, bringing them in, rounding them up, putting them back, oh yeah, there's a cost, for sure there is," Klein said.
Klein said he works with the RM to gather the horses, but if no one claims them they're sent away to be slaughtered and sold as meat.
He believes there are about 15 to 20 horses running loose. That's much less than the 200 some people in the area have been estimating.
Shooting horses not OK, province says
There are stories floating around the community that some frustrated landowners have been shooting stray horses. Klein said he has no first hand knowledge of that happening.
"It's unfortunate that they aren't phoning the First Nation, finding a home for them, or the SPCA, unfortunately they're shooting them," he said. "That kind of bothers me, actually."
While some ranchers think they can shoot a wild horse on their property, the province said that's not allowed in Saskatchewan, and anyone who does can be fined.
The act isn't perfect in terms of finding enough value in some of these animals to make it worthwhile to restrain them and care for them and sell them.- Roy White, Ministry of Agriculture
Roy White, the assistant director of the livestock branch with the Ministry of Agriculture, said horses are considered to be feral and not wild animals, even if they are born outside a domestic environment.
The animals fall under the jurisdiction of the Stray Animals Act— the act makes no distinction between a feral horse, which was once domesticated but now living at large, and a wild horse born outside captivity.
White said the RM of Canwood can make a request to the province for money to help round up the horses, but he does not know of a program that would help.
"The act isn't perfect in terms of finding enough value in some of these animals to make it worthwhile to restrain them and care for them and sell them," he said.
White said there is a part of the act that allows a local veterinarian to declare a feral horse valueless or dangerous, in which case the animal can be euthanized.
There is also no program in place that would offer a farmer compensation for damage caused by horses. The Saskatchewan Crop Insurance provides coverage for wildlife, but horses are exempt because they are not considered wildlife.
White said the province has never considered having a program similar to one in Alberta where people are paid to cull wild horses.