Alberta has developed a new management plan to deal with the growing number of feral horses.

The province says it's the first major step towards the animals long-term sustainable management.

Currently, more than 1400 feral horses are located across six equine management zones at Brazeau, Nordegg, Clearwater, Sundre, Ghost River and Elbow.

Some of those zones face significant challenges to their ecosystem and long-term sustainability as a result of the number of feral horses grazing on the landscape.

In 2023, the province conducted a count of feral horses in each zone, with the highest numbers showing up in the Sundre zone at 969  and 311 in the Ghost River zone.

Counts show the number of feral horses at Clearwater are 97, 88 at Elbow, 33 at Nordegg, and 18 at Brazeau.

Officials note those are only considered to be "minimum counts" as there may be more feral horses than those counted by observers.

By establishing and implementing a science-based management framework (as is done for other wildlife like trout, bighorn sheep and grizzly bears) the province says it can better support the horses while continuing to protect the landscape.

The new management framework was developed with input from the Feral Horse Advisory Committee. 

The framework includes a pilot project with the Wild Horses of Alberta Society where capture permits are issued to place distressed or nuisance feral horses into adoption programs.

Todd Loewen, Minister of Forestry and Parks says Alberta’s feral horses are part of our culture and are appreciated by many Albertans.

"While past efforts to inform and engage Albertans on feral horses were unsuccessful, our management framework outlines clear, simple and honest efforts that we hope will resonate with Albertans and ensure we maintain the sustainability of the landscape where feral horses live. "

Alberta’s feral horses are descendants of abandoned or released domestic horses that were used in logging, guiding and outfitting operations in the early 1900s.

More information on the Feral Horse Management Framework can be found here.