Wednesday, March 24, 2010
HB 4867 - The Corolla Wild Horse Protection Act
On March 17, U.S. Representative Walter B. Jones (NC-3) introduced H.R. 4867, the Corolla Wild Horse Protection Act. The bill would require the U. S. Department of the Interior, the State of North Carolina, the County of Currituck and the Corolla Wild Horse Fund to craft a new herd management plan that would allow for a herd of no less than 100 horses. The current management plan calls for a maximum herd size of 60. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund has maintained that if the wild herd were managed at that level, the herd would be highly likely to have a genetic collapse and die out.
A preliminary report completed in the spring of 2008 by Dr. E. Gus Cothran, a leading equine geneticist and expert on feral herds, found high levels of inbreeding and low levels of genetic diversity at a herd size of 90. Dr. Cothran is currently completing more in depth DNA study, including a mitochondrial analysis. What he is finding is disturbing. “The Corolla herd has really low diversity. It is really going to be important that new genes are introduced. There is only one maternal lineage left. The Shackleford herd has 4 different types.”
Congressman Jones sponsored similar legislation that was enacted into law in 1998 to protect the wild horses roaming 3,000 acres of Cape Lookout National Seashore, Shackleford Banks, in Carteret County. That herd is managed at no less than 110 with a target number of 120 to 130. “These beautiful horses are an essential piece of eastern North Carolina’s heritage,” said Congressman Jones. “This bill will help protect the viability of the Corolla herd so people can enjoy them for years to come.”
An aerial count in October of 2009 revealed a herd size of only 88. The recent discovery of a dead stallion brings that official number to 87. According to CWHF Herd Manager, Wesley Stallings, “in addition to the damage done by excessive inbreeding, a small herd size leaves the horses extremely vulnerable to being completely wiped out by disease or hurricane.”
The wild horses of Northeast North Carolina have found a champion in Congressman Jones and wild horses all over the world have benefitted from the work of Dr. Cothran. We hope and pray that the United States Congress will put this bill through in a timely fashion. The lives of the Corolla wild horses literally depend upon it.