02/26/2014 09:12 EST | Updated 04/28/2014 05:59 EDT

Wild horse cull opponents arrested in central Alberta

Five people who say they were documenting the wild horse cull in central Alberta have been arrested.

The province of Alberta issued 200 licences to capture the 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.

Shannon Mann, who is opposed to the cull, joined a small group of people camping near a cull site in the Sundre, Alta., area for the past week.

They were on Crown land near a capture pen — but were not interfering — when RCMP officers arrived and told them they had to leave, she said.

“We asked them where should we move to, and we got three separate answers from three different officers so they didn't clearly really have a boundary,” she said.

“One said we couldn't be within the line of sight of the capture pen, one said we should be on the other side of the trees. And then one said we should be a kilometre away.”

'Nobody was tampering'

Mann said they were in the process of moving when police handcuffed two men and three women and took them to the RCMP station in Sundre, which is about 120 kilometres northwest of Calgary. 

“Nobody was tampering with the site,” she said. "We actually weren't even that close to it. But they told us that us being in that vicinity would prevent horses from going into his trap."

The province estimates there are 980 wild horses near Sundre 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.

Provincial biologists have said in the past they don't consider the animals true wildlife, but rather feral descendants of domestic horses used in logging and mining operations in the early 1900s.

The Canadian Wild Horse Foundation, however, argues that the horses are native wildlife and should be protected as such.