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Efforts to cull western Canada's wild horse population opposed

  |   Feb. 16, 2014 at 7:48 PM
SUNDRE, Alberta, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Efforts to cull the wild horse population in western Canada are being met by criticism from animal activists who say government officials are wrongheaded.

The Alberta provincial government said last month it will issue licenses to capture 200 of the estimated 980 wild horses near Sundre to reduce their threat to native animals and their food supply. The officials say the number is up from 853 last year, though opponents of the cull contend their numbers are likely much lower, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Sunday.

The licenses allow for a range of uses for the animals, including slaughter, the CBC said.

"The cull that we're going through right now, we're going to have to do it again because there will be compensatory mechanisms," Dr. Judith Sampson-French, a veterinarian in nearby Bragg Creek, told the CBC. "Because there [will be] fewer horses in the area, there's more resources so reproduction and foal survival rate will go up."

Sampson-French suggests having a privately funded program to use birth control to limit the wild horse population instead and the Wild Horses of Alberta Society wants the province to ensure the horses don't end up in a slaughterhouse.

While the horses are not native to the region, some people have suggested they be declared a "heritage species" so they can be better managed.

The feral horses, the descendants of domestic horses brought to the area for logging and mining operations in the early 1900s, pose a problem by feeding on grazing land used by cattle and other domesticated livestock.

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