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Reward now at $3,500

The reward for identifying the killers of wild horses hear Sundre has jumped to $3,500.

Bob and Doreen Henderson said more than 100 people from across Canada have called or e-mailed to offer reward money.

Bob Henderson said he was surprised by the outpouring of support.

“Sometimes in our battles with the government, it seemed like nobody cared. It was getting frustrating,” said Henderson, founder of the Olds-based Wild Horses of Alberta Society (WHOAS).

“I am a little shocked and extremely pleased that people really do care.”

Support came from as far away as Nova Scotia. In the Red Deer area, businesses provided donations of as much as $1,000.

It began on New Year’s Day when the Hendersons found ravens picking the remains of three horses, including two foals, near a gravel road 40 km west of Sundre.

They were devastated because just two months earlier they had taken pictures of the horses majestically posing against the mountain backdrop.

They quickly offered a $500 reward — as much as WHOAS could afford at the time.

Henderson said 12 other horses have been found shot in the same area in the past two years. The killing site is a 1.6 square-km area on the forested foothills of the Rockies.

Henderson said after the latest shootings and increased media coverage, officials with the RCMP, Fish and Wildlife, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development scoured the site with a metal detector.

They found one spent slug from a high-calibre rifle and continue to investigate.

RCMP Cpl. Dave Heaslip said he could tell the three had not been sick. He’s not sure if the shooter used them for target practice or wanted to bait wolves with their carcasses.

Some ranchers, who lease Crown land, dislike the horses because they believe the horses compete with their cattle for grass, said Heaslip, the Northern Alberta livestock investigator.

Although shooting wild horses is illegal under the Criminal Code, capturing them for slaughter at a meat plant is not.

From Nov. 1 to March 1, people can apply for government licences allowing them to catch the horses on Crown land.

Typically, food is set inside a corral. The horse enters the corral and a gate shuts behind it. As well, horses can be rounded up and roped.

Heaslip urges anyone who sees suspicious activities to call RCMP or Crime Stoppers.

But Lane Moore, an outfitter in the upper Clearwater Valley, questions whether police would treat complaints seriously.

In the summer of 2005, he reported a man who shot a horse and planned to eat the meat. Moore knew the man’s identity and where he worked.

Moore called Fish and Wildlife officers who couldn’t lay charges because wild horses are considered stray animals in Alberta, not wildlife.

Police were called in, but no charges were laid, said Moore.

“It just absolutely amazes. If it is illegal, why aren’t people getting charged after they have been caught?”

Moore said the shooting of wild horses often raises safety concerns for outfitters. The carcasses attract bears and other wild animals.

In the case of the horse shot in 2005, the shooter left the guts in the forest after butchering it. That attracted a black bear.

Contact Andrea Miller at amiller@reddeeradvocate.com

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