May 9, 2014 6:00 pm

WATCH: More than 600 feral horses in South Okanagan expected by fall

PENTICTON — Take a drive near the outskirts of Penticton, and you may see wild horses trotting along city highways or grazing in people’s yards.

No one’s known exactly how many horses are out there — not even the Penticton Indian Band (PIB) whose members own the horses.

But in early spring, PIB members and a representative from the Ministry of Environment conducted an aerial horse count.

They discovered there are 558 horses — a number they were not expecting.

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“We had expected in our estimate, from talking to horse owners and from people in the area, to have 300-350. But to have 558 was definitely a bit of a surprise,” said Zoe Kirk, the regional district’s WildSafeBC Community Coordinator.

The number may be surprising, but it is only going to get higher. Of the 558 horses, 70 of them are pregnant, meaning there will be more than 600 wild horses by the fall.

Dolly Kruger, PIB councilor, explained why the horse owners themselves do not try to keep the animals on PIB land, and contained in each owners’ properties.

“Horses are an important part of our aboriginal background so we’re not just going to keep the horses in the pens,” said Kruger

But she does propose to build a fence around to reserve.

“It will definitely stop the horses from coming into the local and surrounding communities and highways,” said Kruger.

Now that the PIB and local governments and agencies have the new horse count they will begin researching possible solutions and costs.

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