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Calls to protect wild horses that BC government says are invasive

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Dec4,2023

Calls to protect wild horses that the BC government says are invasive

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Wild horses have lived in western Canada for hundreds of years. (Archives)


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A biologist and a British Columbia First Nation are calling on the province to change its narrative on wild horses in the region Cariboo and to protect them. These species are considered invasive and feral by the government.

Wayne McCrory has studied the wild horses of the Chilcotin Plateau in the Cariboo region since 2001. Many people view the animals as nuisance intruders, he says. However, as part of his research, he explains that he quickly realized the role that these horses had in the ecosystem and their important cultural significance to certain First Nations in the surrounding area.

In his book The Wild Horses of the Chilcotin : Their History and Future, Wayne McCrory explains that the government has long authorized the slaughter of these animals, offering bonuses to the population to encourage them. The last one dates back to 1988, according to him.

The biologist is today calling for protection of these horses from the provincial and federal governments.

Earlier this year, 17 wild horses were shot and killed again in a remote area west of Kamloops. An investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is underway.

In an email, the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Management said it considers horses roaming freely in the wild to be feral, not wildlife, meaning they are not protected under the Wildlife Act.

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Feral horses cause significant damage to wildlife habitats, such as wetlands and grasslands, and compete with other wildlife important to First Nations, such as elk, the statement said.

Wayne McCrory believes that wild horses are part of an intact prey-predator ecosystem, and are a major food source for native predatory species like blows and cougars.

The biologist maintains that his previous studies showed that certain herds on the Chilcotin Plateau have very close ties to the Canadian horse, a unique breed, indicating that these horses are neither invasive nor feral.

These horses also have a rich connection with the Xeni Gwet’in, one of the six communities that form the Tŝilhqot'in Nation. Called qiyus, these animals have been used for centuries by the community to travel and transport resources for hunting or gathering purposes.

We have a strong relationship with them for a very, very long time. They help us perpetuate our hunting culture and pass it on to future generations, comments Jimmy Lulua, a former chief of the Xeni Gwet’in.

In 2002, the Xeni Gwet’in also established a wild horse conservation area in an area called Brittany Triangle, located between Chilko and the Taseko River. The protection zone covers more than 7,700 square kilometers.

For Jimmy Lulua, these animals should be characterized as wild species by the provincial government . They live in the wild with bears and elk, they are hunted by wolves, he says.

The ministry indicates that it does not plays no role in the active management of these horses, but supports partner First Nations in their efforts to manage the species, particularly for their sterilization and research programs regarding wild/feral horses and their interactions with wildlife.

With information from the radio show Radio West

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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