South Okanagan wild horse issue will only get worse

West Bench director Michael Brydon says it will be a bad year for feral horses if nothing is done.

Penticton RCMP vehicles leave the scene of an accident on Highway 97 near Old Airport Road where a young horse had to be dispatched after being struck by a vehicle Friday morning. The matter of the free-roaming animals was once again the topic of discussion at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities meetings in Whislter last week.

Penticton RCMP vehicles leave the scene of an accident on Highway 97 near Old Airport Road where a young horse had to be dispatched after being struck by a vehicle Friday morning. The matter of the free-roaming animals was once again the topic of discussion at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities meetings in Whislter last week.

Almost at the same time public officials were discussing the increasing problem of free roaming horses, one of the animals had to be euthanized after being hit by a car Friday.

The incident happened about 8 a.m. on Highway 97 near Old Airport Road just south of the city.

Penticton RCMP were notified by a third party about the accident and several cars attended the scene, and the young horse, which apparently suffered serious leg injuries, was shot.

Just two days prior directors of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) met with John Rustad, the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, about the matter at the Union of B.C. Municipalities meetings in Whistler.

West Bench director Michael Brydon was at the meeting with the minister and is warning the problem is only going to get worse as the number of wild horses continues to grow.

“This year and this summer the issue got so ridiculous that the writings’ on the wall for everyone, we have this geometric growth of horses, it’s bad this year and it’s going to be really bad next year,” said Brydon. “I have people on the West Bench telling me they want to move out they can’t take it anymore: the horses are making this neighbourhood unlivable. For a lot of years this was funny but it’s not funny any more it’s getting really expensive and really dangerous.”

He was encouraged by the provincial response to the concerns raised at the meeting with the minister adding the response was not the one they have received in the past.

Brydon also pointed to the stepped up actions of the Penticton Indian Band in addressing the matter.

Nearly 600 wild horses were counted on PIB lands in March during an aerial survey that’s expected to underpin development of a new plan to manage the animals’ numbers.

To that end the RDOS and the PIB conducted a study on the root cause of the matter under the direction of project co-ordinator Zoe Kirk along with Dolly Kruger, the PIB councillor assigned to the initiative.

Members of the project team are hoping to meet with community groups, followed by the production of a draft plan with implementation some time in 2015.

The free roaming horses, often called “wild” or “feral” have been a frequent cause of concern for motorists, homeowners and agriculturalists on the West Bench and neighbouring areas from Kaleden to Summerland.

Coming up with a strategy to control them has been difficult due to issues arising from ownership of the animals and the lands on which they range.

Options to manage herd sizes range from rounding up animals for slaughter — last done in 2009 —  to sterilizing them, then erecting fencing to keep them out of populated areas.

 

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