National Park

Boaters took wild foal to North Carolina island, park says

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The newborn foal is now in the care of the Shackleford Horse Foundation due to being separated from its mother by tourists.

National Park Service photo

According to Cape Lookout National Seashore, a newborn feral horse on one of North Carolina’s barrier islands had to be permanently removed from its mother after well-meaning tourists carried it off the Shackleford Banks.

The incident happened on March 26 and those involved were cited for removing a wild horse from a national park, the National Park Service said in a news release.

If convicted, they could face up to six months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine, reports the National Park Service. The names of the tourists have not been released.

Investigators say the incident began when the tourists “encountered a newborn foal” which followed them around the island for about two hours.

They became concerned after seeing no adult horses during that time, but park officials note that’s not uncommon in the herd.

“A stallion, when trying to protect his group of mares, may chase them away from a place where a foal is sleeping (and) then prevent a mare from going back to get her foal because he doesn’t want to lose her. In this case, the foal could lose contact with its harem,” park officials said.

“As the visitors moved to their boat to leave the island, the colt tried to follow them. With the best of intentions, thinking the colt was going to drown, they lifted the colt into the boat and left. , thus removing the horse from its natural habitat, its mother and the herd.

Reuniting a mother and child in a herd of more than 120 horses is nearly impossible, so the foal is now permanently without its mother, the park said.

He will be raised “like a pet” by the Foundation for Shackleford Horses, a non-profit organization that defends wild horses living in the Cape Lookout National Seashore.

“For a short time early in a foal’s life, it instinctively follows its mother without necessarily knowing what creature it is. When separated, the foal will follow other horses or even people,” National Park Service wildlife biologist Sue Stuska said in a statement.

Foaling season on the Outer Banks begins in March, and more and more young horses will soon appear on the beaches, often sleeping “on their sides, almost motionless, for hours on end,” the park said in its advice to future tourists.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering topics including schools, crime, immigration, LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with a major in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.