Please stay away from the wild horses on the Currituck Outer Banks

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund posted this photo Thursday morning of someone feeding the wild mustangs on the Currituck Outer Banks. Not only is this illegal, it is dangerous. [CWHF photo]

By Meg Puckett/Corolla Wild Horse Fund Manager

A concerned person sent us this photo yesterday. With our beaches opening back up in a few days, it seemed like a good time to remind everyone of all the reasons why this is dangerous and deadly – not to mention illegal.

First and foremost, this person is breaking the law. The Currituck County Wild Horse Ordinance states that it is illegal for any person to lure, attract, entice, or feed a wild horse. It is illegal to come within 50ft of a wild horse. You can read the ordinance here:

Feeding wild horses can result in a host of problems that could very well lead to a horse dying, or being removed from the wild for its own safety. Horses have very sensitive digestive systems and introducing foreign foods to their diet can cause painful and often fatal colic. Horses are very susceptible to choking, which can also be fatal. We have lost wild horses over the years to being fed; once, a foal died due to being fed a watermelon rind that became lodged in its intestines.

Interacting with wild horses also habituates them, or causes them to lose any fear they may have of humans. This leads to horses aggressively seeking humans out for food, which can be dangerous not just for the horse but for people too. The horses in this photo are already extremely habituated and we have been working for years to break them of the habit of approaching vehicles for food. If this behavior continues, it is very likely they may have to be permanently removed from the wild. That would be a catastrophic loss for an already threatened herd.

So what do you do if a horse approaches you while you’re on the beach? Simple – move away. Grab any bags or coolers that may contain food and stand back as the horses move by. This temporary inconvenience is a small price to pay to keep yourself and the horses safe. It’s a part of visiting the northern beaches, and something all people should take responsibility for. You can call CWHF or the non-emergency county number and one of our staff or a sheriff’s deputy will be dispatched to help resolve the situation. Or you can simply stand a safe distance away and enjoy the wild beauty of the mustangs in their natural habitat.

If you are visiting our beaches this spring and summer, please help us keep the horses safe. Admire from a distance and do not feed them. Drive slowly and be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you observe potentially dangerous behavior, call to report it. There is not another place like this on earth, and it’s up to all of us to preserve it for generations to come. Please be respectful and safe while enjoying your time on the Currituck Outer Banks.

FAQs including important phone numbers:

(We are not posting this photo in an effort to “catch” this person and punish them. We have no idea when it was taken and that’s not the point of the post. We are simply using it to demonstrate dangerous behavior and educate everyone on why it’s so important to follow the rules. We ask that this message please not get lost among any other rhetoric. Thank you for helping us keep the horses safe!)