Adoptions in Store for Corolla Horses After Bumper Crop of Foals Arrives

More than two dozen foals were born this year to the wild horses of Corolla, N.C., pushing the herd above its designated limits and meaning more of the animals will be available for adoption.

With about 30 foals, the herd stands at 108 animals--well above the desired population of 60 in a management plan adopted six years ago.

"I think it was just a good breeding season," said Steve Rogers, herd manager for the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, a nonprofit group charged with taking care of the animals. "It kind of goes in cycles."

But overpopulation leads to overgrazing, and possible damage to the maritime forest environment, especially in the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge. Refuge managers said this summer that the area already showed signs of overgrazing even with a lower population.

Rogers counted the herd in August by airplane and found 119 horses divided into 23 smaller groups, up from 65 animals a year earlier. A few deaths, adoptions and relocation of some to Dews Island in the Currituck Sound reduced the number.

The larger herd divides itself into smaller herds, each led by a stallion.

An adoption program helps manage the herd's population, sending about 20 horses to new homes since it began in 2002. The horses are eligible for adoption at about eight to 10 months old.

The program will become more aggressive over the next year and might be accompanied by some form of birth control.

Adopters must pay $600; adoption forms with a list of qualifications are available online at www.corollawildhorses.com.

A history provided by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund says the horses are descended from Spanish mustangs brought to the New World on ships about 400 years ago. The current herd still shows signs of their heritage in genetic and physical examinations.

Rogers, hired by the Fund this summer, said then that he hoped to take DNA samples of every horse in order to select those best suited for adoption and leave the most genetic variety in the herd.

Rogers is charged with guarding the herd's overall health. Individual horses are largely left to fend for themselves, according to the management plan.

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The Associated Press

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