NEAR OLIVER — On the way to Mount Baldy, feral horses are seen foraging on the grass and near the road. For years, the wild horses have been the source of complaint in the south Okanagan; they create a traffic hazard and damage people’s properties.
Earlier this week, a pen was mysteriously erected off the side of McCuddy Creek Road.
Nearby resident June Delitsikos suspects someone is rounding up the horses. She confronted two people who dropped off hay on Monday.
“What are you doing? And they said, ‘Rounding up horses.’ I said ‘For slaughter?’ They said it depends on the person they’re rounding them for. But they didn’t deny it.”
Global News learned that person is Aaron Stelkia, a member of the Osoyoos Indian Band and horseman, who confirmed he is indeed capturing the wild horses.
He says feral horses are overpopulated and last summer’s drought has drastically reduced the amount of grass.
As a result, the animals are starving. So he has taken it upon himself to help regulate the population.
“Some may go for slaughter, some may go for people who want to buy a yearling or baby, and some will be kept…to repopulate,” Stelkia explains.
Delitsikos has been feeding the emaciated horses for more than 15 years through the winter and believes if Stelkia is collecting the horses to make a profit, then he should take ownership of the animals and feed them.
Stelkia says the horses are on “traditional territory” and as a band member, he is allowed to round up the animals.
Calls to the Osoyoos Indian Band Chief have not been returned to clarify if this is the case.
Meanwhile, Stelkia says trapping the horses is much more humane than leaving the horses to starve to death.