Forty-five feral horses in the West Chilcotin’s Anahim Lake and Nimpo Lake surrounding areas have been rounded up thanks to a collaboration with Ulkatcho First Nation (UFN).
Chief Lynda Price said the UFN Elders’ executive council was concerned about the poor health and condition of the feral horses.
“It appeared that no one was looking after the horses and they were running at large,” said Price, who along with UFN councillors Mabelen Leon, Laurie Vaughan, Stella West, Allen Louie and Charlie William passed the UFN Animal Control Act Bylaw in September 2019.
A year and a half later they are seeing results.
In February 2021, the UFN Feral Horse Project was launched with Leslie Witt as the co-ordinator and Darren Sulin as lead horse wrangler.
“They began the long, arduous task of rounding up feral horses,” Price said, noting corrals for holding horses were built and catch pens were repaired and the UFN community was provided information through handouts and online presentations.
The horses were rounded up, then placed in a pen to determine if they belonged to anyone. Unclaimed horses were shipped for sale and photographs were taken of the horses for future reference, with information circulated to the UFN community about horse ownership and identification for future reference.
Of the 45 feral horses, nine were re-homed, eight belonged to community members and were returned to them, one had to be euthanized due to an old injury from a broken and dislocated leg and 27 were sent to a horse sale.
One of the challenges was locating hay to feed the horses.
Chief Price said increased amounts of rain during the summer on the plateau hindered the ability of ranchers to maintain their hay supply.
“This is another important reason we need an access road to Vanderhoof in the north for locals to get their hay supply for the winter. Lately, we have had summers where local ranchers cannot put up their hay.”
Price noted the elders have great respect for the horses.
They utilized them for many purposes such as transportation — sleighs in the winter and wagons in the summer, hunting and trapping, tourism — pack trips and trail riding, ranching — haying, fencing, education for youth about responsibility and of course, sports such as competition in gymkhana and other ranch operation events like roping to tag the calves and round up for shipping in the fall, she said.
“I grew up on a ranch and I know you get very attached to your horses.”
Expressing gratitude to everyone involved in the project, Price thanked Witt, Billie Jean Graham, community co-ordinator, wranglers: Sulin, Howard and Amanda Lulua and Robert Graham, Henry and Aileen Lampert, horse loaders and snow removers, David Dorsey and Clint Fraser, snow removers, Wayne Murray, tractor and trailer for hauling hay, Wade McNolty, stockyards, Beau Mecham, transportation, Roy Graham, hay supply, Dave and Patti Jorgensen, equipment for fencing, Conrad Cofre, resource manager with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, and Steve James, CEO WCFP, management, and all the boots on the ground who provided a helping hand — Russell Cahoose, David Graham and Chevy Hennigar.
Price said she and council believe a big part of healing in the UFN community includes utilization of horses in healing programs.
“UFN members that are interested in creating youth programs are asked to please come forward and support the UFN youth by sharing their talent in this area,” she added. “We lift our hands to our neighbours, the Xeni Gwet’en, who are also involved in a feral horse program.”