Jann Arden joins fight against Alberta wild horse capture

Canadian singer-songwriter Jann Arden is adding her voice to the fight against the wild horse cull in Alberta.

Province says non-native herds pose threat to food supply for native animals

Canadian singer-songwriter Jann Arden is joining the fight against Alberta's wild horse capture. (Wild Horses of Alberta Society)

Canadian singer-songwriter Jann Arden is adding her voice to the fight against the wild horse capture in Alberta.

Alberta's government announced in January it will give out licences to capture 196 of the feral animals, which it says pose a threat to native animals and their food supplies.

Licensees can keep the horses for personal use or sell them for slaughter.

However, opponents say it won't solve anything in the long run and needs to be re-examined.

Jann Arden prepares to do an aerial survey of wild horses numbers around Olds, Alta. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

"The cull that we're going through right now, we're going to have to do it again because there will be compensatory mechanisms," said Dr. Judith Sampson-French, a veterinarian in nearby Bragg Creek. "Because there [will be] fewer horses in the area, there's more resources so reproduction and foal survival rate will go up."

The province estimates there are 980 wild horses near Sundre, Alta., based on an aerial survey done before the June floods and this year's harsh winter.

That number is up from 853 the year before but opponents say the population is likely much lower.

Arden will join Sampson-French and a rancher to conduct an aerial survey of wild horses near Williams Creek, Alta. on Sunday afternoon.

Controversy surrounds capture

The wild horse capture in Alberta has sparked considerable controversy since it was announced in January.

Each year, the province surveys the population and decides whether to issue licences.

However, those capture licences allow for a range of actions — including selling the animals for slaughter.

Sampson-French says she is asking the province to allow for a privately-funded program to use birth control to limit the wild horse population.

She recently spearheaded a similar program in Newfoundland and Labrador to help control feral dog numbers in First Nations communities after successful efforts in Alberta. 

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

Some are also suggesting the animals should be declared a "heritage species" so that a proper management strategy can be put in place.

For others, the animals — which they say are not native to Alberta — are a nuisance and take up valuable grazing land for cattle and other livestock.

Provincial biologists don't consider the horses true wildlife because they are descendants of domestic horses brought to the area for logging and mining operations in the early 1900s.