“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.