Colville Tribes plans to remove feral horses from their reservation


Last updated 1/3/2019 at 10:31am

Corralled feral horses on a February 2015 roundup east of Nespelem. - Scott Hunter photo

The Colville Tribes plans to remove between 1,000 and 1,500 feral horses from the reservation between January and March of 2019.

In 2015, 422 feral horses were removed in a similar effort using an "aerial capture" method that uses a helicopter to help round up the large mammals.

Colville Tribal Fish and Wildlife aerial counts showed a wild-horse population count of 148 in 2007, 309 in 2009, 723 in 2010, and 1,500 in 2014, according to the "Colville Tribes Integrated Resource Management Plan" cited in a Dec. 7 Tribal Tribune report.

In the tribe's request for proposals on the project, which closed Dec. 24, they note a desired population of between 50 and 200 wild horses.

The contractor for the project "will be expected to gather and ship horses while placing the health and well-being of the animals, as well as contractor's safety, as their priorities," the request for proposal states. "The contractor shall accomplish the work in a safe and humane manner in accordance with all applicable state, federal and tribal laws."

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Areas targeted for the 2019 capture include the Omak Lake area, the Buffalo Lake area and the Hellgate Game Reserve.

One issue with the process in the past was that people had their personal horses taken from them when they were captured along with the feral horses.

"Our family was one of the families that was told we could be there to claim what horses were ours mixed in with the wild horse herd," Shoog Leslie Palmer wrote in a Facebook comment to The Star. "When the time came wasn't allowed to. We take high pride in our horses. We were okay with the round up as we had troubles with the studs from the wild horse packs stealing our good breed mares. I'm all for the process, but they better have a better attitude with the local cowboys being there to claim their horses from the herds of wild horses."

In addition to feral horses "stealing good breed mares," they compete with wildlife and livestock for grazing land, which causes problems with overgrazing, affects hunting, and causes erosion, among other environmental concerns.

"The areas that have become overgrazed contribute to the spread of invasive species, compaction, and erosion," The Star wrote in 2012, citing a Fish and Wildlife press release from that time. "The horses also compete with big game animals for forage."

A feral horse eats an estimated 25 pounds of forage per day, stated then tribal Business Council chairman Michael O. Finley.

"I hope they don't get sold for pet food!!" Donald Munter said on The Star's recent Facebook post asking for input on the topic.

Which raises the question: Where do the horses go?

In the 2015 horse removal, "The captured horses were shipped to Montana, headed for eventual slaughter in Canada," according to an article in The Star at that time.

As of Dec. 27, a contractor hadn't been chosen yet for the 2019 removal, and it would be up to that contractor what happens to those horses.


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