The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Alberta premier defends government plan to cull wild horse population

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LETHBRIDGE, Alta. - Alberta's premier is defending the government's decision to cull its wild horse population.

Alison Redford said Wednesday that the horses are feral animals that affect pasture land.

"I understand that people do have concerns and can get quite emotional about this," Redford told reporters at a school announcement in Lethbridge.

"But at the end of the day, the decisions that are made have to be made in the context of the best possible use of our resources, our land management."

Critics have said they worry many of the horses will end up in slaughterhouses or die during the roundup and they want the government to cancel the plan immediately.

The Opposition Wildrose party said there isn't enough scientific evidence to support a cull.

"Wildrose remains committed to a solution that is based on science," the party's environment critic, Joe Anglin, said in a news release Wednesday.

"Premier Redford has failed to conduct a pragmatic, fact-based analysis of the horses' herd, range and patterns, which has ultimately put them at risk of being culled."

Alberta Environment has issued a licence to capture up to 200 feral horses in the central Alberta area around Sundre, which is in Anglin's riding.

The government reported that the horse population there increased to 980 last year from 778 the year before. About 216 horses were removed in 2011 when the province last issued a capture order.

Anglin said residents in the area would rather the government give people the option of adopting the horses and trying to domesticate them.

"The feral horse is a proud symbol of Alberta's frontier heritage," he said. "We should strive to keep it that way."

The roundup runs until March 1.

(CJOC, The Canadian Press)

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