Mount Currie Chief Lucinda Phillips said she’ll be reminding community members to ensure their animals are safely contained following the recent death of a free-roaming horse in the Pemberton Valley.
A train struck two loose horses near the Village of Pemberton on Oct. 23, one of which had to be put down by RCMP officers attending the scene.
Patty Ritchie, whose property the dead horse was later removed from, said the free-roaming horses have been an ongoing problem for the 16 years she’s lived in the area and she’s hopeful a solution can be found.
“It’s always in October,” said Ritchie. “Every year, we go through the same thing.”
Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair of the Whistler RCMP said Monday (Oct. 29) that police received three other calls in October regarding horses on the loose, though the animals had either been contained or had moved elsewhere by the time an officer was able to respond.
Phillips said she was disappointed to hear the news, particularly as it was just a few weeks ago that she went around to horse and livestock owners with a reminder to secure their properties because band officials “were anticipating that this would start up.”
“It’s frustrating all around,” she said. “I’m at my wit’s end, basically.”
Mount Currie was part of a round-table discussion this time last year that included representatives of the local government jurisdictions, the RCMP and B.C. SPCA, aimed at crafting a solution to the annual problem.
While the idea of setting up some kind of regional pound was floated once again at that meeting, the associated costs pose a challenge.
“From that meeting, we had drafted up a bylaw with regards to stock owners, but the bylaw itself hasn’t gone too far because there are too many things within the bylaw that we would have to implement,” said Phillips. “(We would need) a bylaw officer apprehending the horses and cows to put them into a stable that we don’t have. It became very costly to try to implement the bylaw.”
The issue became more significant to the Village of Pemberton last year, as the municipal boundary expansion saw land annexed that is frequented by roaming horses.
Mayor Jordan Sturdy said the horses will often use the railroad tracks as a corridor through the area. He commended Phillips and her staff for efforts to corral problem horses last fall, adding that the village will look to co-operate with the Lil’wat Nation again this year.
“It was very shortly after that meeting (last year) that the horses were herded back to the rodeo grounds and the problem kind of went away,” he said. “We’re working with the RCMP, Mount Currie Band and tribal police to look for a similar solution as last year.”
Ritchie said she’d support any initiative that local officials can take to address the recurring problem, if only for the safety of the animals.
“It’s the horses, inevitably, that are my concern,” she said. “Property (damage) is one thing — properties can bounce back. But a horse won’t.”
Phillips said it’s her understanding that some owners of horses who roam free may be selling off their stock, which could help curb the problem. In the meantime, she said the band will again touch base with potential offenders and round up what horses it can.
LeClair also advised motorists to be on the lookout when driving along Highway 99.
“Drivers in the Pemberton area should be extremely cautious, especially at night,” he said. “A collision with a horse could be tragic for both the occupants of a vehicle and the horse itself.”