Arrests in wild horse roundup

Protesters plan to fight charges

Five people arrested near a wild horse capture site west of Sundre and later charged with mischief plan to defend themselves against the charges according to Darrell Glover one of those charged.

Glover says he believes he and his co-accused were in the right when they moved towards the capture site on February 25.

“I am absolutely going to plead not guilty” says Glover. “We all plan to fight the charges. I feel we were wrongly arrested and charged. We had a right to be there. It’s Crown land.”

Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (AESRD) launched a program on January 21 that allows a total of 200 free-roaming horses to be captured. The program which the province says was needed to relieve pressure on native wildlife and plants caused by the horses was scheduled to wrap up on March 1.

“As far as I know we have no intention of extending it” says AESRD spokesperson Carrie Sancartier who was unaware of the exact number of horses taken.

“We probably will be able to release some of that information next week but I don’t have any numbers at this point” she says.

On February 25 three women and two men including Glover were arrested and charged with mischief after allegedly ignoring police orders to stay away from the capture site in the Williams Creek area west of Sundre.

Glover says the five were arrested moments after speaking to RCMP officers at the scene.

“When we got to within 250 metres of the site we had met a police vehicle” he says. “We had a conversation with the police about why we couldn’t go any further and they told us we couldn’t go any further. Frankly I didn’t consider that an appropriate answer.

“I was asked to turn my ATV around so backed off about halfway down the trail where I found a widening where I pulled over I let the police go by and then I turned around and I went back.

“Within about two minutes after I got there these two police vehicles stormed onto the site. They jumped out like a SWAT team and started handcuffing us. They got out of their vehicle and literally ran to us. I was handcuffed and put into the back of the police vehicle.”

All five accused have been released on bail which included a condition that they stay away from the capture site and ordered to appear in Didsbury provincial court on March 31.

The accused were unlawfully interfering with the lawful activities of a capture permit holder says RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Josee Valiquette. “The individuals proceeded to the site despite the warning.”

Once captured by an authorized licence holder the wild horses become the property of the trapper.

Jason Bradley who has a capture license says they are sent to slaughter sold to ranchers for use as breeding stock donated to youth camps given as gifts or otherwise disposed of.

Over the past month opponents of the capture program have met near Bradley’s capture site at Williams Creek and placed feed nearby in an attempt to keep horses away.

A member of the anti-capture group Help Alberta’s Wildies Glover says he believes the actions of those opposed to the capture program over the past month have been worthwhile. “It’s been a heck of a month but you know we are making progress. The public pressure has definitely had an impact” he says.

Glover plans to “continue flying over the valley and keeping an eye on things to monitor the horses. AESRD is planning to conduct another horse count in March and we are going to be keeping an eye on the horses to have an idea of how many horses are there.”

The Olds-based Wild Horses of Alberta Society (WHOAS) is also opposed to the capture program with president Bob Henderson saying it was not needed. WHOAS is calling on the province to implement a contraceptive program for the horses instead of allowing future capture.

“We still maintain that there is a better way to do it than just catching them and sending them to slaughter” says Henderson. “This year because of the publicity not too many went to slaughter. We have to convince the AESRD that there is a much more humane way of doing things.

“We are grateful that the program is ending. We asked that there not be a cull because we believed we had an accurate count of those 980 horses out there.”

WHOAS is prepared to help finance a contraceptive program including the purchase of equipment such as dart guns.

Asked if another capture program will be held in 2015 Sancartier says it’s too early to tell.

“We do have a feral horse advisory committee and their mandate is to advise government on long-term feral management options so they will continue to meet this year” she says. “We don’t know what will come out of that but they are looking at a variety of options for long-term feral horse management.”