Wild horses pose hazard on Penticton highway

Officials search for solutions to herd of feral horses which roam the hills surrounding the city

Feral horses gather along the east side of Highway 97 close to Red Wing Resorts where a pair of the animals were hit by a truck last week and had to be put down. The incident has again raised concerns about problems they create for motorists and residents at the north and south ends of the city where they come down from the hills to forage for food.

Feral horses gather along the east side of Highway 97 close to Red Wing Resorts where a pair of the animals were hit by a truck last week and had to be put down. The incident has again raised concerns about problems they create for motorists and residents at the north and south ends of the city where they come down from the hills to forage for food.

Herd management is being suggested as a means to solve what some people believe is an increasing problem with feral horses in and around the city.

“That (controlling the population) has to be part of the solution. There’s too many horses and that’s why they’re coming down here, because the range land is not sufficient and at some point we’re going to have to address that reality head on,” said Area F Director Michael Brydon of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen. “The horses are thriving and it’s dangerous and it’s costly, no one doubts that, we just have to figure out what we can do about it.

“We’ve talked to MP (Dan) Albas and the usual suspects about getting some help with this and we’re working with the (Penticton Indian) Band to come up with some sort of solution and I hope to talk to Chief (Jonathan) Kruger about this (Thursday).”

The ongoing problem with the equines re-surfaced last week after two animals had to be destroyed after being struck by a vehicle on Highway 97 near Red Wing Resorts.

According to Sgt. Rick Dellebuur of Penticton RCMP, due to the severity of the injuries, the animals — believed to have been hit by a logging truck — had to be euthanized.

According to Brydon, one of the possible means that was suggested to the RDOS for controlling the numbers of horses is sterilizing the mares using a method involving darts.

However, at this point the director doesn’t feel that would be the right option.

Another solution, one which came out of an extensive investigation of the matter several years ago, is the installation of fences and cattle guards to keep the animals away from the highways and roads.

Brydon feels that would involve considerable expenditure of money with no guarantee it would work, especially in the case of hungry animals in search of food during the leaner times.

“Another thing that came out of it, was that in the meantime we should just put out some feeding stations in the hills up in the PIB lands,” he said. “For three years they (stations) worked extremely well, for trivial amounts of money, and we kind of thought the problem was solved. And this year, obviously they are not working at all.

“It could be a bigger herd, who knows. The feeding stations were never taken to be a long-term solution but they did work quite well and they bought us some time so now we’re sort of reconsidering what we can do.”

The herd of horses, which the two that were killed are believed to be from, had been seen in the area on the north side of town for several days.

According to Dellebuur, the driver of the truck left the scene and police were not able to get its description or licence plate number.

The other location where the horses regularly cross is on the highway to the south of the city near the Riva Ridge Mobile Home Park and Wright’s Campground.

“I believe it was still dark when the accident happened, so if the horses were dark it would have been very hard to see them,” said Dellebuur.

“When we went out there and had a look later in the day, around 11 (a.m.) and there were still four horses out there, probably wondering where their buddies went, but you could see the black marks (from the truck tires) and the other stuff on the road where it looked like the guy obviously tried to go around them but never made it.”

He added that unlike the deer, the horses are slower moving and as a rule, don’t jump out in front of vehicles.

Because the horses breed and have their young in the hills, Dellebuur feels it would be difficult to determine exactly who the owners of any of the particular horses are. Over the years the detachment and PIB officials have, and are continuing to work on solving the problems which includes the damage they do to property, particularly in the West Bench area.

“The hard part is we have some people who feed them and then they keep coming back and trampling the neighbours’ yards and then (the neighbours are) upset,” said Dellebuur. “When we get a call and it’s a complaint about the dangers (on the highway), we go out and do the best we can to send them on their way and we urge people to exercise care and we do as much as possible to minimize problems for motorists and residents.”

He doesn’t expect the problem to be solved anytime soon, adding that people use common sense in dealing with situations involving the horses.

Chief Kruger said the incident was sad and unfortunate, adding the band is working with other agencies in an attempt to do its part to resolve the situation but it is difficult, if not impossible, to control the herd movements.