“Although these visitors thought that they were doing the right thing, this foal can’t be returned to Shackleford Banks and will now live a life as a domesticated animal, rather than as a wild stallion.”
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Shackleford Banks
Credit: NPS

A newborn wild horse is being raised as a domesticated animal after it was removed from its herd by tourists visiting the North Carolina barrier island last month.

The foal followed a group of people on Shackleford Banks for two hours on March 26 with no other horses around, according to a release from the Cape Lookout National Seashore.

"When the visitors moved to their boat to leave the island the foal tried to follow them," the seashore explained. "With the best of intentions, thinking that the foal would drown, they lifted the foal into the boat and departed, thereby removing the horse from its natural habitat, its mother, and the herd."

It is likely that the foal initially lost contact with his mother when a stallion, sensing danger, rushed its harem away from a location. The stallion might have then kept the mare from going back to get the foal because he did not want to lose sight of her.

Dr. Sue Stuska, the park's wildlife biologist, said in the news release that when separated from their mothers, young horses will follow other horses or even people.

The orphan foal is currently in the care of the Foundation for Shackleford Horses.

"Once a foal has been removed from the seashore, it is unlikely that the park can reunite it with its dam (mother)," the seashore said. "Although these visitors thought that they were doing the right thing, this foal can't be returned to Shackleford Banks and will now live a life as a domesticated animal, rather than as a wild stallion."

As a result of their actions, the unnamed visitors have been cited. If convicted, they could face up to six months in jail and/or be fined $5,000.

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Shackleford Banks, the Southern-most barrier island in Cape Lookout National Seashore, is home to more than 100 wild horses. Visitors are required to always stay at least 50 feet away from the horses.

For more information visit shackleford-horses.org.