Help Alberta Wildies Society (HAWS) is an organization that works to protect and preserve bands of wild horses in Alberta, Canada in the Alberta Foothills along the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
The feral horses have a Spanish bloodline and, according to HAWS are targeted by the government of Alberta as well as the cattleman lobbyists.
HAWS posted a video to their Facebook page showing a heart-pounding moment in which a grizzly bear chases a band of wild horses attempting to flee the 800 lbs beast.
“The next time someone tells you that the Wild Horses have no natural predators, send them to me. We are losing a lot of horses this year, sooner and quicker than in past years. Not just foals. Adults also,” wrote HAWS in a Facebook post.
HAWS later posted a second video explaining that grizzly bears are a common predator in the Alberta Foothills. “The bears have always been here, the bears have always been chasing horses,” explained HAWS.
According to HAWS, there are at least eight bears in the area with bear cubs. The horses also have foals that HAWS pays strict attention to as reproduction plays a vital role in the preservation of the feral band.
“The horses were not caught,” said HAWS. “The bear did not catch [the horses], the bear did not catch the foal. We know that he’s still around.”
“[Grizzly bears] are always walking amongst us in the wilderness, and are generally extremely evasive. Wild Horses are definitely part of their diet but they also indulge on a large number of deer, moose, and elk. Around the middle of June, they will have an opportunity to puck on some free range cattle for the summer and fall,” wrote HAWS in a statement on Facebook.
“Eight bears across a 20-mile stretch, that doesn’t seem like a high concentration to me,” added a HAWS spokesperson. “Yes, we’re losing foals, yes we’re losing horses, but that’s the way it is out in the wild. These bears do have to eat, and they also belong here just like any other animal.”
Feral horses are a contentious topic in the world of environmental management. Those on the cattle ranching side of the debate, who worry that the feral creatures will overgraze their cattle vegetation, often label the wild horses as “invasive species”. Environmentalists are also concerned about overgrazing leading to soil erosion and seedling damage.
Those who wish to preserve the wild horses’ existence and are opposed to culling them, emphasize their cultural and historical significance in the history of Western Canada.
Conservationists also argue that the horses do in fact have natural predators. HAWS noted on Facebook that the horses are prey to large predators, and add that it’s impossible for the horse population to “skyrocket” while the horses’ foals are being hunted by bears and wolves.
And while some argue that the horses’ ancestors were domesticated ponies brought to Canada from Europe, Indigenous groups, such as the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, have said that the horses have always been present.
Alberta stopped trapping and culling wild horses in 2015, but wild horse conservationists in the province continue to battle the government and cattleman lobbyists who wish to eradicate the wild ponies.