B.C. pays First Nation to round up wild horses for auction at ‘meat prices’
Researcher says there is no evidence the program will benefit moose
The province paid $73,000 to a Chilcotin First Nation for a moose-enhancement program that included rounding up 14 wild horses and selling them for meat at auction — even though research in the region suggests there is little competition between moose and horses for forage.
The money was also used to train aboriginals how to trap wolves, to conduct a survey of moose kills by native hunters, and to decommission logging roads in an effort to reduce vehicle access for hunting.
Kristen Johnny, spokeswoman for the Tl’etinqox First Nation at Alexis Creek, said the moose-enhancement program ran from October 2012 to March 2013 and that band members rounded up 14 wild horses and herded them into a specially built corral.
“They compete for the same grazing,” she said. “There’s a lot of horses out there. They were then taken to the auction in Williams Lake.”
Asked if the horses wound up slaughtered, she said: “I have no idea. I just know they got sold.”
Pam Abrahamse of the B.C. Livestock Producers Cooperative Association in Williams Lake said that when wild horses are brought in they are auctioned off at the prevailing meat prices and shipped to Alberta.
Although she couldn’t say what ultimately happened to the 14 horses, the issue of wild horses being rounded up and taken to slaughter houses has been controversial for years in Alberta.
Wayne McCrory, an independent biologist who has studied the wild horses of the Chilcotin for a decade, said his research shows there is little competition for forage between the two animals.
“Moose are primarily browsers and horses are basically grazers, with a bit of dietary overlap,” he said.
Several years after fires went through the Brittany Triangle of the Chilcotin, he added, “we had a wintering band of horses on the grassland hillsides ... and at least seven moose using the willow flats and we did not observe any signs of significant habitat overlap and competition. The horses pretty much stayed to the grasses and the moose to the willows.”
Vivian Thomas, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, confirmed the province provided a $73,000 contract to the Tl’etinqox members for “monitoring wildlife harvesting and management.”
She argued that McCrory’s study is “just one opinion” and that there is “no scientific consensus on this issue.” She said there are concerns that both feral horses and moose prefer wetland meadows and that this could cause “behavioural displacement” of moose.
Thomas added that traditional native knowledge “believes there is a competitive relationship between moose and feral horses, and the ministry acknowledges the First Nation’s traditional right to be engaged in horse management activities.”
Tl’etinqox is the largest of six Chilcotin First Nations, with about 1,500 members.
\"Horses lend us the wings we lack\"
Yes, as Frank & the article says, they are browsers. I would think that one would really have to stretch it to show that they are even indirect competitors with horses.
I have direct competition for grazing in my yard. The competition goes thus:
1. Moose wanders in, eating whatever it wants, tree bark, pond slime, reeds, whatever.
2. Horses eat the carefully prepared hay ration and pelleted feeds their digestion requires (winter) then eat the grass in their pastures, NEVER venturing to jump the 4' fence (which all of them could easily clear, from a standstill.)
3. Moose steps over horse fence like it doesn't exist
4. Horses do NOT EVEN BLINK before abandoning feed and running to furthest point away from moose, to observe and do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to suggest they felt ownership over the food in the pasture.
5. Moose selects a few choice bits, here and there, maybe settles for a nap to torture horses a little, then awkwardly trot/lumbers back over the fence, poops in my garden and carries on.
6. Long after depart of moose, horses still snort and quiver, until I come home and reassure them with more carefully prepared feed, delivered according to blessed routine.
That scene repeats once or twice a week. I have a hard time believing that even the most savage feral horse herd actually "competes" with a moose. Moose aren't even afraid of humans. If they run out of tasty browse, they have no problem wandering through neighborhoods and golf courses. They can subsist entirely on pond slime, should they desire it.
Moose takes what it wants 'yo. And it will eat pretty much anything.
^Note: while I am no moose expert, they are my favorite animal. My wedding cake topper was a bride and groom moose. No lie.
Lifestyle coordinator for Zora, Spooky, Wolfgang and Warrior
Well, I can share my own land management experience in Wyoming that is relevant.
The issue was an area where we were working to restore the riparian corridor along a river, where we assumed that the cattle were the culprits. So cattle were removed. Ranchers were required to graze them in other areas and provide water since they no longer had access to the particular river corridor.
Three years later, the corridor was just as hammered. By feral horses for the most part. One could see evidence of ungulate use as well (elk)- but the footprint evidence was pretty clear on the dominance of horses in that scenario.
And yes, the surveying was by biologists, based on sound science.