Feral horses congregating around West Bench Elementary has prompted the Okanagan Skaha School District to ask the Penticton Indian Band for help.
“It’s been an ongoing problem. The population of the horses is getting way out of hand and something certainly needs to be done,” said Chief Jonathan Kruger. “The horses are a definitely a safety issue.”
The school board voted this week to write a letter to Kruger, expressing their safety concerns about the wild horses near West Bench Elementary and requesting their assistance in protecting the welfare of the children who live in the area.
“Our big concern is the safety of the children and for the teachers and staff at that school,” said board chair Linda Van Alphen.
Kruger said the problem isn’t limited to West Bench Elementary. The band has had the same problem at Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School and has had to fence around the new health centre.
A survey of the wild horse problem, being conducted in conjunction with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, is almost complete according to Kruger. He expects they will have a band meeting in the near future to develop an action plan, though he expects they will need help from other levels of government.
The horses are a mix of of feral and those owned by band members. Kruger admits that makes it hard to develop a policy.
“We have done some fencing and put in some cattle guards and taken some steps. The reserve is so big. And some of the fences we had up there have been vandalized and ripped down from people mountain biking, dirt biking and things like that. Some of the fence is just extremely old,” he said. “There are a whole variety of issues. There is definitely lots of work to be done.”
Kruger said this is not just a safety issue impacting West Bench Elementary.
“Horses are definitely an issue, not just in West Bench area. We get letters and phone calls from our band members,” said Kruger. “It is not just a safety issue over there, it is throughout our community.”