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  • Writer's pictureReporter Sue Chikie

The Wild Horses Of Alberta: Myths And Realities And The Resolve to Save Them



Darrell Glover founder of HAWS. Photo Sue Chikie

The Sundre area of Alberta is home to a population of wild horses, often referred to as “Wildies.” Recently, the Help Alberta Wildies Society (HAWS), led by its President, Darrell Glover, invited the media to tour the region and witness firsthand the reality of these magnificent creatures.

More article below photos.



Glover and his team of dedicated volunteers are on a mission to save and protect these free-roaming horses, which boast rare Spanish bloodlines, throughout the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains. For the past 10 years, Glover, the founder of HAWS, has been advocating tirelessly for these animals. He employs boots-on-the-ground methods and has strategically placed cameras to prove that these horses are not detrimental to their rangeland habitat.

Rangelands are areas of land that support both indigenous and introduced vegetation, managed as natural ecosystems. They include grasslands, grazeable forestland, shrubland, pastureland, and riparian areas. Healthy rangelands provide sustainable grazing opportunities for livestock producers and offer a broad range of ecological benefits. A decline in rangeland health serves as a critical alert for the need for management changes.

Rangeland Health Reports are conducted by the Rocky Mountain Forest Grazers Association during the growing season. These complex assessments include various criteria and evaluations to generate a numerical “Health Score” for each site. However, the government has been reluctant to release these reports beyond 2015.

Zoocheck Canada Inc., an animal protection organization, has been fighting an eight-year battle to obtain additional rangeland health data. The Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner recently ordered the release of the 2015 reports, highlighting that the government misused section 16(1) of Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP Act) to withhold the records. Despite this, the government attempted to bypass the FOIP Act through a 2018 Memorandum of Understanding with the Rocky Mountain Grazers Association. Zoocheck continues to fight for more transparency.

During the tour, Glover demonstrated that cattle, not horses, are the primary cause of destruction in the area, as well as bears that dig around the salt blocks set out for the wildlife. He explained that horses consume far less forage compared to cattle, which are more numerous in the area.

Forestry has the largest impact on the rangeland. Glover pointed out vast clear-cut areas during the tour, some of which have been replanted. However, the reforestation efforts focus solely on coniferous trees, neglecting the diversity necessary for a healthy ecosystem. The Ghost Watershed Alliance Society, part of the Rocky Mountain Forest Reserve, highlights that from 1999 to 2016, the human footprint in the area increased from 6.9 per cent to 12.0 per cent, with forestry activities accounting for most of this growth. Put another way, in the 17 years between 1999 to 2016, the human footprint in the Rocky Mountain Forest Reserve increased by 73.9 per cent.


Areas cleared by the forestry industry.

Other factors harming the rangeland include wellsites, pipelines, access roads, recreational vehicles, invasive species, and soil compaction. These activities have significantly more impact on rangeland health than the wild horses.

Despite ongoing threats from the provincial government, cattlemen’s lobby, and other interest groups, natural predators like grizzlies, black bears, and wolves help keep the horse population in check. Since 2018, the number of wild horses in the province has been stable and is currently in decline.

To support the efforts of HAWS or become a member, visit their website at Help Alberta Wildies Society or follow their Facebook page for incredible videos and photos and updates. For more information, you can contact Darrell Glover directly at hawsteam@gmail.com.

2 Comments


Jenn Jenkinson
Jenn Jenkinson
Jul 03

I have lived in Alberta for 68 years of my nearly 71 years of life. I've felt honoured to have had the opportunity on several occasions to see and observe our Alberta Wildies. I'm a firm believer in what Darrell Glover and the whole team at HAWS are doing to protect these living symbols of our Heritage. Having enjoying riding and horses for most of my life, I personally 100% agree with HAWS facts regarding the wildies. They are sadly in decline with a mere 10% of foals born each season managing to make it through their first year of life; most either fall prey to predators or to other hazards of wilderness life. For our government to suggest…



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jeanpaxton2
Jul 03

I am in Scotland uk. And support all Darrell and his teams amazing work they do, to keep these wild horses in the public eye. Please spread the word far and wide, and leave these beautiful horses be, after all this is there land. And long may they roam free without humans interfering in there ways.

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