British Columbia

RCMP investigating suspicious deaths of 17 wild horses in Kamloops area

RCMP say they are investigating the deaths of 17 wild horses in a remote area west of Kamloops, B.C. 

Horses were of cultural significance to the local Skeetchestn Indian Band

A herd of horses near the Skeetchestn Indian Band in British Columbia.
A herd of wild horses pictured near Skeetchestn Indian Band territory. Authorities in B.C. are investigating after 17 wild horses were found shot dead about 65 kilometres west of Kamloops on Friday. (Candice Camille)

RCMP say they are investigating the deaths of 17 wild horses in a remote area west of Kamloops, B.C. 

Tk'emlups Rural RCMP said they received a report Friday of several horses that had been killed on provincial Crown land north of Walhachin, B.C., approximately 65 kilometres from Kamloops.

RCMP confirmed the horses, part of a herd that frequented the area, had been shot. 

Cpl. Cory Lepine, the sole livestock investigator in the province, told CBC the carcasses were strewn over a distance of around two kilometres and located in two groups, one with six and the other with 11.

He says he believes the carcasses had been there for some time.

"These animals had been there, it could be upwards of two weeks," he said. "So there there had been quite a bit of predator activity on the carcasses."

The RCMP say it is investigating and asking anyone with information to come forward.

Main allegation could be animal cruelty: police

The horses, about 250 of which are grazing on the Crown lands, are of cultural significance to the local Skeetchestn Indian Band.

"The Skeetchestn range is adjacent to this Crown range (where the animals were found) and I think the horses kind of go back and forth, so the community is used to having them there,'' Lepine said.

Cpl. Cory Lepine with the RCMP Livestock Section says investigators are trying to figure out why the 17 animals were killed.

He says he's not sure what charges individuals would face if caught, but that animal cruelty would likely be the main allegation.

"I don't see how it would benefit anyone to do this," Lepine said. "It's very senseless."

Calling for legislation to protect animals

Given the important role horses play in Canada's heritage and the ecosystem, as well as in First Nation culture, biologist and wild horse researcher Wayne McCrory is calling on the federal and provincial governments to enact legislation to protect the animals. 

"In Canada, whether it's a species at risk, wild horses or old-growth [trees], it just takes a lot of political will on the Canadian public to see that happen," McCrory said, who has been studying B.C.'s horses for nearly 20 years. 

In a press release Wednesday, the Skeetchestn Indian Band says it is saddened by the discovery of the dead horses.

"We are connected to all animals that walk, fly and swim, and it is our responsibility to ensure that all life is respected and cared for," the First Nation said in a written statement.

"We are mourning the unnecessary loss of wildlife that we share this beautiful landscape with."

With files from The Canadian Press and Jenifer Norwell