They've been roaming the fields and foothills of southern Alberta for hundreds of years, but the government is once again looking to rein in the province's feral horses.
Last week the Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) Ministry declared the launch of a program designed to capture up to 200 wild horses in the foothills north and northwest of Calgary.
According to the Toronto Star, once a licence has been purchased for $200, holders will be able to trap horses within a 2.2 million hectare boundary.
However, animal rights groups are crying foul, and one petition with close to 10,000 signatures calls on the federal and Alberta governments to:
"Protect our wild horses by creating cohesive legislation under which all our wild horses will be protected and granted the freedom to roam our public Lands, which is as much theirs as it is ours. Stop the cull and review this out of date management strategy. Support independent environmental and biological studies and work towards cohesive national wild horse legislation."
According to Nikki Booth, a spokesperson for the ministry, the fate of a captured horse is up to whoever caught it.
“Some people sell them to slaughter, but a lot of people will use the horses for recreational use or personal use on their farms,” she told the Calgary Sun.
Story continues after the slideshow
The Flight of Honor, Steens Mountain, Oregon, 2009 “We are so connected in our day to day lives but are we really “connected?” Wings carry our soul to the place we yearn to be, fleeting moments captured, stop us in our tracks, root us to the earth and remind us to fly free.” – Kimerlee Curyl 40” x 60” Photo on Eco Friendly Sugar Cane Paper, in white box frame Limited Edition size of 15
The Great Divide, The Great Divide Basin, Wyoming, 2013 “Returning to the area after the 2011 round up, one never knows what to expect. I'm grateful that the horses I saw were healthy and vibrant. I was also elated to see some familiar faces...one older mare, that I really did not think would escape capture was still alive and kicking with a young foal at her side. What a significant gift to witness. The sex ratios were very much askew; I have never seen so many older bachelor bands in all the years I have been venturing out. Ever. Due to this there were also an extraordinary amount of injuries from the challenging stallions. Injuries are part of life in the wild; I'm no stranger to that; however this trip I saw more than the comfortable amount. The feelings that came over me being back here for the 3rd time now, after adopting a beautiful young gelding from the area just a few weeks prior was such a sense of honor. This vast beautiful landscape was his home and the horses there his family... They need your voice...before it’s too late.” – Kimerlee Curyl 30” x 40” Photo on Wood Panel Limited Edition of 3
el Regalo, Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, SD, 2013 “Literally appearing over this ridge as I was photographing a small bachelor band to the right, this handsome Grullo stallion arrived, standing proud, patient and regal. The feelings that came over me were astounding; in my heart I could feel that this may be my newly adopted mustang's father. He embodies the exact likeness in look and feel, the exact. He is a stallion of age that should have a family band but instead had a band of bachelors due to the askew numbers of females to males in the area post 2011 round up. He stayed in this very spot for a good long moment, watching his bachelors play and allowing me the time to observe and the day's remaining light to shine upon him. Translated, 'el Regalo’ means 'the Gift'.”-- Kimerlee Curyl 30” x 45” Photo on Eco Friendly Sugar Cane Paper, in white box frame Limited edition size of 5
Nurture, The Great Divide Basin, WY, 2013 “We need to “nurture” our ethics and integrity before it’s too late. Time at the watering hole is just as sacred for me as it is for them. Drinking from the well of life Mother Nature has provided them. As the bands come in for water, stallions will challenge for first rights, as the challenge goes on the lead mare takes the band in to drink. This stallion and his bachelor stallion came on in to water after making sure they established their right to be first. While watching them drink you can feel the essence of life being sustained by the earth, the horses drink the water and lick or eat the surrounding dirt and mud to absorb the rich minerals and nutrients provided to them.” – Kimerlee Curyl To be printed, on linen Size TBD
Introspective, Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, SD, 2013 “Her clear amber eyes reflect a wisdom older than mankind. The mare's finely chiseled grulla head is far superior to thin porcelain. The ancestry of her family transcends the oceans to a primitive time in Portugal over 500 years ago. Brought to the New World in sailing ships seeking gold. These horses were left behind to survive with others of her kind in the rugged Utah mountain ranges.” -- Susan Watt, Program Director, Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary 40” x 60” Photo on Eco Friendly Sugar Cane Paper, in white box frame Limited edition size of 15
Freedom Vanishing, Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, SD 2013 “A beautiful Sulpher Springs Mare, a descendant from the first round up in the Sulpher Springs Herd Management Area (HMA) in Utah back in the 90's. These horses carry powerful DNA similar to the primitive Iberian horses the Sorria.The Herd Management Area (HMA) is known for harsh and rugged terrain, the horses although smaller in stature are hardy, strong and distinctively Spanish with strong leg markings and dorsal stripes. While out with this herd in their hundreds of protected acres in South Dakotas Black Hills, this mare, whom at first glance, I thought was a stallion, had a presence of strength, wisdom and protection. Like the protective stallions in the wild, every time I looked up, turned around, moved through the herd I would find her near me. This image represents her strength but I feel the vulnerability to the timely and pressing issue these horses are facing... extinction... Freedom Vanishing.” – Kimerlee Curyl 40” x 60” Photo on Eco Friendly Sugar Cane Paper, in white box frame Limited edition size 15
BedHead, Onaqui Herd, Utah, 2008 “This was the largest herd I have even been surrounded by, literally immersed into the middle of what I guessed to be 150+ wild horses. In the spring and early summer the bands come together and the fight for breeding rights ensues. Somehow when I'm out with the wild herds, no matter which area I'm in I find myself surrounded by the herd leader. I love to think its kismet, but as herd dynamics go, is the role of the leader. This stallion was exquisite and it didn't take much for him to court the doe like eyes of young fillies. This image was captured as he was doing just that. Literally courting and winning a beautiful bay filly away from her family band.” – Kimerlee Curyl 30” x 45” Photo on Eco Friendly Sugar Cane Paper, framed in white box frame Limited edition of 5
Rockstar, Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, SD, 2013 “Watching her as she stood her ground amongst a herd, she was a no nonsense dame, she had the heart of the leader in the herd, and claimed her space well. She pushed others aside once this soft sandy patch of dirt was discovered and rolled, and rolled, and rolled...when she got up and shock for what seemed like forever she had the essence of a Rockstar to me: wild, sexy and free.” – Kimerlee Curyl 40” x 60” Photo on Eco Friendly Sugar Cane Paper, framed in white box frame Limited edition size of 15
Vanishing Grace, Salt Wells, WY, 2011 “He didn’t move a muscle as the truck came to a quick and hard stop. He simply turned back and stared. Standing there, calm and observant. As I approached very slowly, he moved off and up the road veering left... I followed.He came to a stop and looked down below; there in a small little gully was his herd: four beautiful white mares, four gorgeous yearlings and four foals. It was as if he took me there to see them. His family embodied the same qualities, confident, unconcerned, calm and gentle... Salt Wells, WY ~ in 2010, 2010 wild horses were stripped from their home territory that covers 1.5 million acres of land. Only 365 horses are allowed to roam free on the vast landscape.” – Kimerlee Curyl 40” x 60” Photo on canvas, framed in white box frame Limited edition size of 15
Sleeping Beauties, Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, SD 2013 “Horses are social creatures. They physically and psychologically ‘need’ each other. They are not meant to live alone, separated from each other and what is natural to them. Scenes like is are common amongst horses in the wild. The herd is family and nap time generally comes in late morning or early afternoon when the fear of predators is lessened. Horses keep alert during evening hours and during that time they only let the young sleep. Often they’ll form a circle around the sleeping youngsters to protect them.” -- Kimerlee Curyl 40” x 60” Photo on Eco Friendly Sugar Cane, framed in white box frame Limited edition size 15
Honor, Steens Mountain, Oregon, 2009 “With barely a mark to show off, this grand stallion wears a badge of HONOR. He with the least scars wins in the wild. He knows how and when to use his energy and strength, with just a look this stud would send approaching stallions away. I spent hours watching him protect from below this grassy embankment. His contentment and peace even allowed for me to close my eyes ever so briefly and enjoy a short mid-morning nap in the warm Oregon desert sun.” – Kimerlee Curyl 30” x 45” Photo on Eco Friendly Sugar Cane Paper, framed in white box frame Limited Edition Size 5
Snow White, The Great Divide Basin, WY, 2013 “We all need someone to lean on. This gorgeous snow white mare very heavy in foal takes a nap on her handsome prince charming in the afternoons wind and sun. In 2011, 1,132 horses were gathered by helicopter, chased for miles from their home territory. Only 139 were returned back to this vast landscape of 779 thousand acres in southern Wyoming. The continuing inequality of horse to land ratio saga grows, while tax-payers’ dollars are spent at 100K per day for stock piling these now removed majestic icons.” – Kimerlee Curyl 30” x 45” Photo on Eco Friendly Sugar Cane, framed in white box frame Limited edition size 5
Splendor in the Grass, Sand Wash Basin, CO, 2012 “Heading down an off shoot, a rocky messed up road on a gut feeling...20 minutes in thinking it was a bad idea. Literally at the very end, up on a plateau...quietly grazing was this beautiful herd...peace...the chilly yet soft November winds were blowing grasses of yellow and gold as the summers green had long passed. Furry coats and chunky bellies preparing for the winters return...Mother Nature blended their beauty so softly with the seasons landscape...I feel at ease, I can close my eyes and be back on that ridge...being reminded how honored I felt when this stallion decided to lay down in the late morning sun, his family all around and in my very near presence.” – Kimerlee Curyl 40” x 60” Photo on Eco Friendly Sugar Cane Paper, Framed in white box frame Limited Edition size of 15
She added the horses do not have any natural predators, which allows the population to grow quickly, estimating about 940 wild horses live in the area from Kananaskis to Nordegg.
Bob Henderson, president of the Wild Horses of Alberta Society (WHOAS,) told the Toronto Star his group tried to stop the province from launching the program this year, adding the expense to keep a horse is often too great for those who capture them and the horses almost always end up at the slaughterhouse.
“A lot of them aren’t going to make it, we’ve already found the remains of a few out there,” he said.
He also told the Calgary Sun this year's harsh winter season has naturally helped with population control, adding there's no need for a capture in 2014.
Carrie Sancartier, a spokesperson for ESRD, told the Toronto Star the capture is essential every few years because large numbers of horses mean more animals on the area's highways, as well as a deterioration of and competition for wild grass, which deer and elk also eat.
The 2011-2012 season was the last year the Alberta government approved a wild horse round-up, and according to the National Post 220 licences were sold.