Roaming horses are a pretty serious problem in the Pemberton Valley. They live on the Mount Currie Indian Reserve and they’ve been there since before a highway was put through town. They consider the whole of the valley open range and in the wintertime they make their way from a property in Mount Currie and along the highway to Pemberton’s Festival Grounds, sometimes obstructing traffic along the way.
That creates an issue for motorists and themselves. The highway through Pemberton is misty, it’s dark, and if a car is travelling fast enough (as they often are) you stand a very good chance of hitting a horse if it’s on the road.
That’s precisely what’s happened here. Read on for more details.
By Jesse Ferreras, Pique Newsmagazine
November 4, 2010
Two horses were killed Halloween morning on Highway 99 between Mount Currie and Pemberton.
Sgt. Eric Rochette of the Pemberton RCMP said police got a call about a herd of horses on the road at around 8:05 a.m. Sunday. Officers attended the scene and discovered a dead horse on the side of the road and another injured, as well as some debris on the road that seemed to belong to a Dodge vehicle.
“The dead horse was cold, so obviously it died, probably in the middle of the night,” Rochette said. “Hit by a vehicle and the driver just kept going.”
The accident is presumed to have occurred around midnight. Later that morning, a man came knocking at the home of Len Ritchie, who owns a property along the highway. The individual wanted to borrow their tractor so they could haul a live horse out of a ditch.
Ritchie drove his tractor to the scene and discovered one horse dead in the ditch and another one “thrashing away, just totally running out of life.”
The injured horse was shot by officers at the scene.
The RCMP now plans to ask horse owners to contain their animals in a secure area and then talk to horse owners to find out who they belong to.
“We don’t want this to drag on for a month,” Rochette said. “They’re healthy right now and they’re grazing and have access to food.”
This is the second time this year that horses have had to be shot near the Festival Grounds between Pemberton and Mount Currie. In February two horses were killed in collisions with vehicles.
The first horse was killed on impact.
The second horse was killed when it was hit by a vehicle after the driver of the passing vehicle turned around and tried to help at the scene. The second horse had to be shot.
Ritchie, a Pemberton resident for 14 years, said roaming horses have been a problem for as long as he’s lived there.
“There’s complaints every year about it,” he said. “There’s cattle and horses coming down the highway and people running into them. Over the years, there’s been many accidents on the highway, cows and horses had to be shot, and I’m just surprised.”
The two horses killed last February belonged to Mount Currie rancher Wayne Andrew, as do many of the horses that have been seen traversing the highway. He hadn’t heard about the most recent incident when contacted by Pique and so couldn’t confirm whether the horses belonged to him.
Andrew did say, however, that he has trouble keeping his horses penned in Mount Currie because people keep opening the gates to his pasture and letting them loose. Auto accidents have also damaged his fence.
Andrew said he needs help from the Mount Currie Band to fix the fence and keep the horses contained but thus far he says he hasn’t gotten any assistance.
“We need some kind of funding to help us with fencing because it’s not our highway that they put through here,” he said. “The horses were here before the highway, they designed this highway to go through here and it’s their responsibility to help us lock the animals up.”
Mount Currie Band Administrator Mike McGee said in a brief interview that Andrew’s land is his private property and containing the horses is his responsibility.