Saturday, May 30, 2009

In Memory

Today marks one week since the euthanization of our tough little wild stallion, Spec. It will be two months tomorrow that we euthanized another stallion, the same age, but not as well known as Spec. The similarities are sickening. Both hit by motorized vehicles in the prime of their lives, and knowingly left to suffer in agonizing pain.

I have often said that animals seem to bring out either the best or the worst in people. Spec and T-Rex personify the worst. What has transpired, especially in the last week personifies the best.

First, local photographer Mary Basnight set up a cause on facebook, on Monday, May 25th. As of this moment, 1,639 have signed up for the cause and over $400 donated toward the reward fund at this site.

News coverage from every local affiliate as well as Associated Press has prompted emails from all over the country as well as Europe. A couple from Virginia has donated $1,000 via our website to be added to the reward fund. Others have called to donate, sent checks, become members, or just sent messages of outrage or condolence.

I have read hundreds of comments on a variety of news websites and there is an overarching theme . . . WHAT is wrong with people? How could ANYONE hit a wild horse and leave it to suffer because they were too cowardly to notify authorities?

I do not know the answer to that. People ask the same question about the SEVEN horses that have been shot since 2001. “How could anyone do that?” I have no frame of reference in my life’s experience to be able to understand the thought process of a cruel and cowardly person. The individuals that hit these horses have no conscience. How could they? And there are people out there who know the individuals who committed all these acts but choose to remain silent. In my book, that makes you a coward too.

Sometimes, it is hard to do the right thing. Maybe even risky. Hopefully, as the reward fund grows, it will instill some incentive in those who can help us hold the guilty parties accountable. If moral responsibility does not motivate, perhaps monetary reward will.

These two tough little stallions did not deserve what happened to them. All the wild horses want is to be left alone to live the way they have lived for nearly five centuries – wild and free. They ask only that of us and nothing more. Is it too much to ask that those who live, visit, or drive on the 4X4 beaches always be mindful of their presence? To not drive drunk – especially on a foggy night? To not drive ATVs wildly and blindly in the dark of night? To not chase horses with ATVs or vehicles? These horses were on this land long before any of us. They share their land with us. Unfortunately there is a small but dangerous segment of our population that continues to have no respect for the land or the horses. Something has to change and it begins with personal responsibility.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Another Senseless Death

I can hardly believe that it has happened again. Another beautiful wild stallion euthanized as a result of a human’s complete and total lack of responsibility or conscience. The beautiful stallion that is featured in the Mary Kolliner photo in the center of our brochure and our Charter member photos is dead. His name was Spec. He was euthanized at 2:30 p.m. on May 23rd. His left hind leg was broken so badly it was snapped completely in two. Dr. Bart Kite examined the leg thoroughly. It was hit from the side with great force and broken inward. There were ATV tracks all around where the horse was originally seen on the beach at 6:43 a.m. It is possible that ATV’s were being used to chase the horse and then hit him. Residents reported hearing ATV’s tearing around at 1 and 2 a.m.

Spec drug himself up over the dunes over a mile from where he was first seen. I have no words to describe what the last few hours were like for those of us who were present, and what they were like for Spec. If there is a tougher horse on the planet than Spec, then it’s got to be a Spanish Mustang as well. Spec did not want to die and he fought and struggled long and hard. It was gut wrenching. It was a waste. It was sickening. He was terrified.

Someone may be on the north beach right now that is responsible for his death. Or perhaps, like the other horse that was hit in April, they left the beach for awhile, they got rid of their damaged vehicle, and they’re counting on others to continue to cover for them.

Please, if you live or vacation on the north beach and you see or hear something that you know is not right – call the Sheriff’s office. You don’t have to give your name. We have lost two healthy, beautiful, stallions in the last 4 weeks. Hit by people who know that they hit them. Left to suffer in agony. Help us hold them accountable. Help us keep another horse from having to die.

IF YOU DRIVE THE NORTH BEACH AT NIGHT – DON’T SPEED. The horses are almost impossible to see at night. THIS WAS THEIR LAND LONG BEFORE IT WAS OURS. They have shared their land and peacefully coexisted with us. IF YOU RENT ON THE NORTH BEACH – ACT RESPONSIBLY. Two deaths in two month is horrifying. Both caused by the irresponsible, immature, and heartless actions of people. IT MUST STOP.

My deepest thanks to former Herd Manager Steve Rogers and his wife Hannah who drove here from Columbia on Saturday morning. Steve was able to use his expert marksmanship skills to dart Spec twice with tranquilizers allowing us to proceed with the next steps. Thanks to Deputy Justin Cartwright for his assistance, to Edna Baden, Kim Hoey, Jim and Ellen Rein, Brian O’Connor, Cameron Gray, and my husband Mike.

Friday, May 15, 2009

100 Reasons to NOT Touch or Feed Our Wild Horses

Our current herd count is 100. That is about 30 short of the minimum we need to maintain the genetic diversity and physical health of the wild horses. It is about to get smaller.

Last night I got several calls regarding a stallion that was lying on a sand road in Carova (the northernmost development on the north beach). He had been in the area grazing all day but had been lying on Ocean Pearl Road for about an hour. The initial caller wasn’t too concerned at first because the horses lie down in the sand and rest all the time. What caused him the most concern was watching a woman walk right up to the stallion, scratch him on the forehead, and the stallion made no attempt to get up or show signs that he didn’t welcome the attention. That is not normal behavior for a wild animal. That is what convinced him that something was wrong with the horse.

Long story short – the stallion was not sick or injured - but he is going to have to be captured and removed from the beach anyway. Why? Because he clearly has no fear of humans. He has no fear of humans because it is most likely that he has been approached and or fed so many times that he accepts, and perhaps now looks for, attention from humans. Now this horse has become a danger to humans. If he isn’t already, he will now approach humans and demand to be fed. In 2006 we removed another young stallion because he approached a resident out for a walk, demanded to be fed, and knocked the woman down because she had nothing to give him. Luckily she was only severely bruised. Now he is a gelding awaiting adoption and can never return to the beach that was his home.

Last year we found a young mare dead by a canal. Necropsy results identified alfa toxin poisoning as the cause of death. The horse apparently ate moldy hay that some well meaning but misguided person put out for the horses.

We have only 100 horses. We cannot afford to lose a single horse from the already dwindling gene pool. IT IS AGAINST THE LAW IN CURRITUCK COUNTY TO APPROACH, PET, OR FEED A WILD HORSE. There are 100 good reasons for this.

The horses have a specialized diet that has kept them healthy for nearly five centuries. Our volunteers have found apples, carrots, celery, spinach and lettuce that is being left out or fed directly to wild horses. The other consequence of feeding is painful colic or death but that is another topic in itself.

The link to the Wild Horse Ordinance is on our home page. Spread the word. Save our wild horses. Respect the Wild Horse Ordinance.