Regional director wants to rein in wild horses

Joyce Langerak - Penticton Western News Published: February 24, 2009 (link to story)

It’s time for the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen to do something about local wild horses tromping on lawns and skittering around on roadways, says West Bench director Michael Brydon.

He will introduce a motion to the RDOS board during Thursday’s regular meeting.

“All livestock are regulated provincially under the Livestock Act, but I’d say residents on the West Bench are unhappy with the provisions of that act,” said Brydon.

Ranchers or livestock owners can graze their animals on Crown or First Nations land and if residents or property owners don’t want animals on their lawns, it’s their responsibility to fence them off. On the West Bench throughout the winter, there are many temporary fences to keep the horses off. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a horse in the summer,” said Brydon, who lives on the West Bench. “It’s a winter problem.” They’re seeking food.

“We can provide horse control. We’d have to raise money to pay for it, of course. Now, we don’t know what we mean by horse control yet, that’s why we’re setting up a formal task force to look at all the possible alternatives. I expect board support. It’s an important issue here.”

Brydon said he’d spoken to the office of MLA Bill Barisoff and they’re supportive. “Hopefully, if we take the leadership on this, they’ll see some benefits for the Ministry of Transportation as well, in terms of keeping the horses off highways. We’ve been lucky so far that there hasn’t been a serious accident.”

The Penticton Indian Band agrees. “The PIB has discussed this matter with the RDOS and are in favour of a collaborative process to address this issue for the best outcome for both communities,” stated Chief Jonathan Kruger.

“I’m confident that they’ll get a team together to do the work that needs to be done on their part, if that’s looking at provincial funding or taking some money from their budget — I don’t know. We are prepared to work together on this.

“It’s going to take some time to plan it. When they get their team together, we’ll sit down and go over the whole scenario and start the process from there. We need to sit down ourselves and talk about our issues internally.”

Quad drivers, dirt bikers and mountain bikers have been tearing down fences on the reserve, and the PIB has no money for repairs. The cost of fencing ranges from $7-$11 a metre, depending on the environment. “We’ve looked at it. The old fence line, if we were to replace it, I think it’s about seven to nine kilometres and that’s about $90,000 for fencing.

“We’re having problems on both sides of the river with horses,” added Kruger. “A lot of (PIB) community members are having problems with horses as well — hitting them, car accidents and all that stuff. So we’re working together to find a solution for both of our communities.”

“We’ve already been working with the band and the regional district on the issue,” said Rudy Enzmann, Barisoff’s executive assistant. “The big concern, though, is that there is a really serious issue about the (horse) population expanding at unsustainable rates. The challenge is, if you take the fencing approach, that might negate some of the hazards as far as the horses getting into residential neighbourhoods, but you’ve still got the issue of starvation and ultimately, the well-being of the horses themselves.

“Fencing doesn’t solve that. We’re really keen that the interest of the horses is taken into consideration as much as public safety. We just want a good strategy that looks at all aspects of it and ensures health and safety and the horses’ well-being will be taken into consideration.”

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