Feral Horses in Alberta
Shooting or hunting horses is illegal according to Section 444 of the Criminal Code
Albertans have a strong emotional connection to “free roaming” horses due, in part, to their role in settling the West.
In North America, wild horses have been captured and tamed for centuries. These horses have been used to:
- Help with labour in the fields
- Improve quality of life in a variety ways
- Provide people with a means of transportation
Alberta's free-ranging horses, most of which are found west of the town of Sundre, are descendants of domestic horses used
in logging and guiding/outfitting operations in the early 1900s. When these horses were no longer needed, they were set
free. Since then, these horses have produced several generations of offspring and continue to occupy the area around the
original operations west of Sundre and Rocky Mountain House.
Over the years, escaped and illegally released horses added to the number of free-roaming horses. In the 1920s, attempts
to round up the horses were unsuccessful. Today, there continues to be a viable population of free-ranging horses in this
In the early 1990s, concerns about mistreatment of horses captured on public land led the Alberta government to create the
Horse Capture Regulation under the Stray Animals Act. This regulation was developed to ensure humane treatment of feral
horses during capture and restricted the use of inhumane methods of capture, including the use of snares.
This regulation also allows the government to regulate the issuance of licences for horse capture in designated areas of
Alberta. In these areas, identified in the map at right, horses are affecting the range, wildlife habitat and forest regeneration.
Licences can also be issued for the safety of the horses or the public.
Conversely, the issuance of licences may be restricted if it appears the horse populations are declining.
In January 2008, following a review of the legislation, several minor amendments to the regulation were approved. These
- Provide better protection of the feral horses by ensuring weapons are not used to capture feral horses and removing any
reference to "hunting"
- Provide clarity between designated and public lands
- Provide the ability to waive licence fees to ensure horses are removed from areas where they are creating safety hazards
- Continues to prohibit the use of snares as a method of horse capture
- Provides for limits on:
- The number of horses that can be removed
- When they can be removed
- Where they can be captured
- In what manner they can be captured
As a result, provisions of the regulation continue to ensure an adequate balance between sustainable feral horse populations
and protection of other resource interests.
Further Information about Feral Horses in Alberta
If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions about feral horses in Alberta, contact:
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Updated: Feb 7, 2013