Penticton Indian Band Councillor Dolly Kruger provided an update on the wild horse issue to RDOS board members on Thursday
The presentation focused on a project initiated by the PIB, the RDOS and District of Summerland late last year to better understand the causes of the horse problem and the scope of it.
"I not only own horses myself, but I've been around horses my entire life," said Kruger. "So I see this as being really important to our community and future generations, because the horses have always been a part of our history."
The horses currently range between PIB land, crown lands, West Bench, Sage Mesa, Summerland and occasionally, the Kaleden area.
The collaborative effort was undertaken because the animals can be worrisome to agricultural producers and homeowners' yards and gardens. They further become a safety concern for themselves and others when they reach the roads and highways that dissect the areas they travel.
In the presentation, Kruger, along with Zoe Kirk from the RDOS, looked at the history of the horses in the area, unity rides and such positive efforts as showing children how to care for the animals.
In terms of dealing with the present day conflict, there have been joint meetings, meetings with horse owners and a presentation to the PIB Land Use Planning Conference.
A remote camera project to capture images of horses travelling through the PIB land is underway, and an aerial helicopter count was completed on March 26, with a total of 558 horses recorded.
"Chief and council initiated and support this process. And without the contribution from Andrew Walker of FLNRO and the helicopter, we would not have been able to have an accurate count and visual status of the land base," said Kruger. "I've connected with a few PIB elders regarding this issue, who have shared their knowledge and history of the horses, which has been invaluable to this process."
The animals were found in areas including the Marron Valley, game farm, West Bench, Green Mountain Road and clay banks above Highway 97. Some horses also get dumped in the area.
Kruger gave an example of a mare dropped off on Marron Valley Road a few years ago that was walking, not trying to fend for itself.
Costs to date for the PIB and RDOS to deal with the issue add up to $56,700. That includes paying for staff time, feeding stations and research.
The research reveals that not only are there a lot of horses, their health is also being impacted by poor forage conditions.
Among the conflict resolution options are:
- shipping the horses to other locations
- fencing and cattle guards
- feeding stations
- vaccination program
Some horse owners have taken on a cull on their own in recent years.
Kruger prefers the vaccination program to maintain the population. Corrals and stable building in the community, rodeos, clinics, shows and events, are also possible options.
Next steps include progress updates, similar to what was provided to the RDOS board, to the Summerland Council and Joint Steering Committee.
Public education materials are being created and a jointly written information newsletter will be sent to all residents in the region that are affected by the horses.
More meetings to discuss the option to mitigate the human/horse conflict, property damage and safety concerns are expected shortly.
Meanwhile the PIB will continue to work with horse owners to discuss population numbers.
Following the presentation, board members expressed concerns ranging from the costs to culling the animals and areas where the issue is a big worry, such as West Bench.
Director Brad Hope urged that things like fencing, corrals and holding pens should be dealt with right away.
Hope described it as a problem the whole region has to look at, because we all travel the highways.
Kruger is confident the situation is resolvable, but admitted dollars are a major hurdle.
Still, she stated, we are further ahead than we've ever been.
"We want to continue working together, striving for the betterment of the whole community on both sides of the river," she said.
Video below shows the RCMP getting involved to move wild horses across the highway near Penticton.