Wildlife Officials Investigating “Unexpected” Death Of North Carolina Wild Horse

“We had such high hopes for this stallion helping out the Rachel Carson Reserve’s genetic viability.”

North Carolina wildlife officials are mourning the “unexpected” death of a six-year-old wild horse. 

The stallion was reportedly being transferred from Shackleford Banks to a similar island habitat at the Rachel Carson Reserve just a few miles away when tragedy struck. According to a National Park Service (NPS) news release, “the horse suddenly and unexpectedly died while under sedation” during the transfer on April 12. The veterinarian monitoring the horse immediately began resuscitation efforts, which ultimately proved unsuccessful.

The wild horses of Shackleford Banks

Penny Britt/Getty Images

“I am utterly devastated over the loss of the horse,” Jeff West, superintendent of Cape Lookout National Seashore, said in a statement. “We had such high hopes for this stallion helping out the Rachel Carson Reserve’s genetic viability.”

The scheduled transfer was part of a cooperative partnership between NPS, FSH, and the Division of Coastal Management’s NC Coastal Reserve Program (NCCR). FSH was placing the horse with the State to become a part of the wild horse herd that currently resides on the Rachel Carson Reserve in Beaufort. 

“The intention of transferring a stallion to the Reserve was to support the long-term viability and health of the wild horse herd located there,” the NPS news release explained. “The Shackleford stallion was carefully pre-selected based on its body condition, age and social status to ensure the best outcome for the animal as it joined the Rachel Carson Reserve herd.”

Testing and analysis to determine a possible cause of death, including any unknown, underlying conditions, is reportedly ongoing. 

“This was a somber day for all involved and we are committed to gleaning as much information as possible about why the horse suddenly died,” Paula Gillikin, Central Sites Manager of the NCCR, said in a release. “The loss of the stallion won’t be forgotten as we continue our partnership to ensure that our local wild horse herds thrive into the future.” 

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.

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