RDOS director looks to rein in West Bench horses
JOHN MOORHOUSE, The Penticton Herald 02/25/2009 (link to story)
Practically every unfenced yard is festooned with horse apples.
Now, the area‘s Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen director is looking for ways to rein in the free-ranging animals. Michael Brydon has issued a notice of motion to be debated at this Thursday‘s RDOS board meeting, suggesting a task force be created to search for a solution to the growing horse population.
Although conflicts between residential property owners and wild horses wandering between the West Bench and the adjacent Penticton Indian reserve have been ongoing for years, Brydon said Tuesday it seems to be getting worse.
“I don‘t know if there‘s a reliable count of how many horses there are,” he said. “I‘ve heard numbers of up to hundreds of horses.”
While many residents‘ patience is wearing thin, Brydon noted others take a more tolerant view of the horses. It has definitely become a divisive issue.
“For every horse hater, there‘s a horse lover,” he said.
Roaming horses are regulated provincially under the Livestock Act, although regional districts are permitted to provide any service approved by a majority of affected area residents.
In addition to the mess they leave in people‘s yards, safety is another key factor, said Brydon.
“They‘re also on the roads at night which is a real problem,” he said. “It could conceivably be disastrous if you hit one of these horses at high speed.”
Over the years, roaming horses have been struck and killed in collisions with vehicles on Highway 97. More recently, some horses have been hit by paintballs in West Bench area.
Brydon said possible solutions could vary anywhere from increased fencing to sterilization of the wild horses.
“There‘s a lot of different suggestions out there. It‘s a complex issue,” he said. “Obviously human safety is involved and there‘s the issue of whether the horses are dealt with humanely.”
Extensive fencing might not be the answer, he noted, if it results in a lot of starving horses on the opposite side of the fence.
A task force would bring all stakeholders to the table to make sure all alternatives are carefully considered.
The Penticton Indian band council has agreed to become involved. Chief Jonathan Kruger said the band has discussed the matter with the RDOS and supports a collaborative process to address the issue “for the best outcome for both communities.”
The overlapping jurisdictions mean the federal and provincial governments and Penticton Indian band must also be involved in the study, he said. Public input is also being sought, through a special panel established in RDOS Area F (West Bench).
Brydon hopes a solution can be worked out by sometime next year.
“I don‘t know what that solution is going to be, but it‘s going to be complicated Ð and likely expensive too,” he said.
Regional district staff time must also be allocated, which could be a focus of Thursday‘s debate at the RDOS board meeting.