Why can’t the government make the right decision about wild horses culls in Alberta?
In my view, because the wrong people are handling the issue.
Wildies management falls under the Alberta Grazing & Range division whose mandate is to preserve forage for cattle. The range biologists are very knowledgeable about vegetation and livestock grazing needs of crown land.
However, since Wildies do not fall under the Wildlife Act, forage specialists are managing a mammal population that is far beyond their expertise: that is where things fall apart.
When range biologists are questioned on survey methodology and population estimates of Wildies (which often make no sense such as impossible population growth…) no sound explanation is put forth. And that is normal because they are out of their proficiency and budget zone.
On the other hoof, Fish & Wildlife biologists are very skilled at producing reliable population COUNTS for ‘huntable’ species (moose, elk, deer…) with strong confidence intervals. Statistically significant population counts are achieved through properly designed survey methods such as stratified blocks, and time tested computer modelling. It’s about defining age and sex cohorts AND the variables that affect those.
All that range specialists have been able to do is establish TRENDS based on poor methodology – this would be totally unacceptable for our ‘huntable’ species.
So how many Wildies should be culled (what sex and age, and in which area) have so far been done based on wild trends guesstimates.
As a result, culls have been very poorly executed.
Sadly, this inefficiency elegantly demonstrates that culls beget more culls when done inappropriately. And that is a waste for all.
Bewildered Wildies trio by Duane Starr Photography
Dr. Judith Samson-French