Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Vanishing Wild Horse

“Controversial Wild Horse Roundup in Cold Creek Nevada.” “BLM Wild Horse Roundup Resumes.” “Judge Refuses to Stop Horse Roundup.” “Wild Horse Fate in Outer Banks Lies in Preservation Clash.” These are but a few of the recent headlines heralding the seemingly unstoppable attempt to eradicate wild horses from our country. Out west, the land set aside for them by the Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act is being overtaken by livestock grazing, gas, oil, and mineral exploration. On the Outer Banks, one of the rarest and oldest breeds of wild horses is teetering on the brink of genetic disaster and is also threatened with continued attempts by developers to have zoning changed from residential to commercial so that a hotel can be built where the horses roam. Once that happens, other commercial entities will surely follow in an area with limited resources and infrastructure. If that is not enough, each year, far too many of the wild horses of Corolla become less wild as a result of the thousands of people who lure them into the yards of their rental homes with apples, carrots, or whatever they happen to have on hand. Many suffer from colic as a result – and some die. They become habituated to the thousands of vehicles that drive too close them. They lose their fear of people and vehicles, and become trusting and vulnerable to people with malicious intent. Seven have been shot with no arrests and four have died in the last three years as a result of being hit by vehicles on the open beach. For the people who are dedicating their lives to try and save what is left of America’s vanishing icons, the very symbol of freedom and perseverance, it is a heartbreaking and never-ending battle. Many advocates have been fighting this battle for thirty years. It is easy to become discouraged and disheartened when those with decision-making powers continue to look the other way, ignore and/or skew the facts, or are swayed by the promise of power/favors from individuals, corporations and special interest groups with deep pockets. Here on the Outer Banks, we have worked tirelessly to raise awareness and garner support. The bi-partisan Corolla Wild Horses Protection Act passed the United States House of Representatives unanimously on February 6th of this year. It was reintroduced in the Senate by NC Senator, Kay Hagan, with support from NC Senator Richard Burr as S 3448, a companion bill to HR 306. It is our fervent hope that the Senate will pass this bill before the end of year. Our County Commissioners strengthened the existing Wild Horse Ordinance and passed an ordinance prohibiting domestic horses north of the road terminus. Currently they are considering an ordinance that would place much needed parameters on commercial horse tours. We are also in the process of determining what habitat is most critical to the wild horses and are making plans to acquire it. It would be placed in permanent conservation easements that would benefit ALL the wildlife on the north beach. The wild horses of Corolla have survived nearly five centuries against all the odds. The odds have turned against them as well as their wild counterparts in the west. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund Board of Directors, staff and volunteers, will continue to demonstrate the same level of perseverance and strength shown by wild horses everywhere until our mission of permanent protection is complete.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Corn Can Kill

Corn and horses – especially wild horses - do not mix. Energy dense and high in calories, corn can contain the mycotoxin, fusarium moniforme, which causes “moldy corn poisoning” in horses. Even the highest quality corn can easily overwhelm the ability of the horse’s digestive tract and can ultimately cause colic and/or founder. Corn is NOT native to a wild horse’s diet. Corn that falls from corn feeders hung to attract deer will absorb moisture and become moldy. When ingested by a wild horse, colic can be the least of the horse’s problems (and colic is certainly life-threatening). Once a horse begins to exhibit disorientation, head pressing, and hyper-excitability, the outcome is irreversible and fatal. Corn that is mixed with peanut butter to bait wild hogs will cause all of the above as well as put the horse at great risk for choking to death. We have had two wild horses colic in the last three weeks. Both survived but only with timely and costly intervention by our Herd Manager and a veterinarian. Please, do not put corn out for the deer or corn mixed with peanut butter in areas where wild horses can get access. The deer don’t need it, there are other ways to trap hogs, and it has dire consequences for the horses.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

One of the Best Days of My Life

Today was right up there with my wedding day and childbirth. It was like winning the lottery, Christmas and the Super Bowl for wild horses! Today, the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed the Corolla Wild Horses Protection Act. This legislation mandates that the wild horse herd of Corolla, NC never drops below 110 and is capped at 130. It also allows for introductions of horses from the wild herd on Cape Lookout National Seashore (Shackleford Banks). Why is this such a big deal? The Corolla herd is teetering on the brink of extinction and is listed as critically endangered by the American Livestock Breed Conservancy and the Equus Survival Trust. DNA testing has indicated that the Corolla herd has one of the lowest levels of genetic diversity of any wild herd. The current management plan, crafted in 1997, calls for a maximum of 60! This number was not selected based on science but was simply a number upon which all the parties involved could agree. Well, now there IS science and that science says that the minimum population range should be 120 to 130.
Why must this number be legislated? Because one of the stakeholder’s involved in the management plan will not agree to allow the increase in herd size needed to ensure their continued viability. That stakeholder is United States Fish & Wildlife Service who owns about 3,000 acres of the total land accessible to the wild horses. Even though in 6 consecutive years of aerial counts, the maximum number of horse on their land was 35 (and one year it was 0!), and even though we now have a scientifically recommended herd size, they have refused to agree to a change in the maximum herd size.
The registered Spanish Mustangs of the Currituck Outer Banks are a rare and ancient breed. They are also now the North Carolina State Horse. The Corolla Wild Horses Protection Act ensures their genetic and physical health for generations to come. Our heartfelt gratitude to bill sponsor Congressman Walter Jones, cosponsors, Representatives David Price, NC; Ed Whitfield, KY; Howard Coble, NC; Madeleine Bordallo, GU; Betty Jones, OH; Frank Pallone, NJ; Pedro Pierluisi, PR; James Moran, VA; and Gerry Connolly, VA. Thanks also to the Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, “Doc Hastings,” and so many other legislators who supported this bill. Thank you also to every person who took the time to write to their Representatives and urge them to support this bill.
On to the Senate – the last step before it becomes law. Help us save the horses of kings – let your federal Senator know that you support the Corolla Wild Horses Protection Act and that you are asking them to support it as well. Be a voice for the wild horses. Your voice was heard in the House of Representatives. The horses are depending on all of us.