A group of horses near Kartar in December.

NESPELEM - The Colville Business Council simultaneously voted  to approve a controversial non-tribal aerial capture and removal contract of feral horses as well as an increase of the tribal member bounty of feral horses, Thursday in Special Session.

The contract, which had failed to pass through Natural Resource Committee in early January and then passed through the committee Tuesday, is in the amount of $478,750 and calls for the removal “of approximately 1,250 feral horses that have caused degradation to natural resources on the Colville Indian Reservation, and to build a healthier herd for future generations.”

When it was advertised, the contract was expected to start Jan. 14 and run through March 31. Target areas listed in the contract include Omak’s Omak Lake and Coyote Creek area, Nespelem’s Buffalo Lake area and the Hellgate Game Reserve.

In 2015, the tribes hired the same contractor to remove up to 1,000 horses from reservation lands. Through an aerial capture campaign, that contract resulted in the removal of just over 420 horses from range units near Nespelem’s Buffalo Lake.

CBC member Karen Condon voted against the contract.

The second resolution, which passed unanimously, authorizes the  Colville Tribal Range Program to pay a reward in the amount “of $383.00 for adult feral horses to those individuals who fully comply with the rules for feral horses captured in the designated areas set by the Range Program.”

Previously the tribes provided a bounty on wild horses in the amount of $150 for mares and geldings and $250 for studs.

Tribal members had only reported 71 captured horses in 2017 and 81 in 2018, according to CBC member Janet Nicholson in Chambers, in early 

CBC further approved a resolution declaring the feral horse population an emergency across the reservation “due to the significant habitat and environmental damage being done by the overly large herd and the need to remove 1250 horses in a timely manner.” That resolution further allows the use of motorized vehicles for tribal members to use in chasing wild horses.

Colville Tribal Natural Resource Director Cody Desautel reported there to be between 1,600 and 2,000 wild horses on tribal lands.

A horse herd grows on average by 25 percent annually, meaning the estimated population would increase by 400 to 500 horses annually.

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