A boom in vacation homes in the last 25 years has seen the descendants of colonial Spanish mustangs confined to a 7,500-acre sanctuary on the northern tip of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. And now the herd itself may shrink along with its habitat.
A plan backed by the federal government would see the herd reduced from about 115 horses today to no more than 60 in a bid to stop the animals, designated North Carolina’s state horse this year, from competing with federally protected birds for increasingly hard-to-come-by resources.
This means horses in excess of that number will be captured and put up for adoption to new homes off the island, while remaining mares would be treated with contraceptive medication to stop them from being pregnant which may lead to hereditary disease and problems associated with a shallow gene pool.
The Fish and Wildlife Service says the plan will reduce harmful behavior by a species it considers a nuisance. But residents who rely on the horses to bring in tourist dollars or who simply cherish the mustangs as a symbol of the country’s spirit worry it could bring about the collapse of the herd through hereditary disease and other complications of a shallow gene pool. Karen McCaplin, executive director of Corolla Wild Horse Fund said, “To me, they’re as much a symbol of freedom as the bald eagle.”
The Wild Horse fund has put its hopes in a bill introduced in Congress by Rep. Walter Jones. The bill would set a target population of between 120 and 130 horses, and allow the introduction of mares from the herd at Shackleford Banks to enhance the genetic diversity of the Corolla horses.
Title: Wild Horses Face Uncertain Future
Author: Gerry Broome
Publication Source: The Christian Science Monitor, September 20, 1020
Student Researcher: Danielle Frisk, Sonoma State University
Experts in Field: Member of Novato Horsemen’s: Matt Greely, Marin County Sheriff’s Posse: Dan Greely