Bill Would Establish Corolla Wild Horse Population Level

A bill that would establish permanent population levels for a wild horse herd residing on North Carolina's Outer Banks is pending in the U.S. House of Representatives' Natural Resources Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans, and Wildlife.

Corolla Wild Horses

Corolla Wild Horses

The Corolla wild horse herd would be managed by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund under the proposed plan.

Currently 115 wild horses in the Corolla herd reside on a 7,500-acre sanctuary in the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge located on the northern tip of North Carolina's Outer Banks. The refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a division of the Department of the Interior. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund, a nonprofit organization, manages the horses. A Fish and Wildlife Service management plan established in 1997 would reduce the herd to 60 animals through an adoption program and the contraception treatment of remaining mares. Under the plan, the Corolla Wild Horse Fund would manage those programs.

The bill, HR 5482--the Corolla Wild Horses Protection Act, introduced June 8 by North Carolina Representative Walter Jones, calls for an agreement between the Corolla Wild Horse Fund (CWHF) and the Department of the Interior to establish the herd's official management level at at least 110 horses with a target population of between 120 and 130 wild horses. The bill also would allow the CWHF to introduce mares from the Shackleford herd, which resides elsewhere in the Outer Banks at the Cape Lookout National Seashore, to enhance the Corolla herd's genetic diversity.

Corolla Wild Horse Fund Executive Director Karen McCalpin said the bill's passage is crucial to the herd's long-term viability.

"A management level of 60 is just too low," McCalpin said. "Our horses are already too closely related to one another. Also, such a small population could be entirely wiped out if there was a major disaster such as widespread disease, a fire, or a major hurricane like Katrina."

Currituck National Wildlife Refuge manager Mike Hoff said the 1997 management plan was designed to maximize resources for all the animals that share the refuge including the wild horses, deer, wild pigs and migratory birds. The plan's wild horse herd population level was based on the size of the herd at the time, and the overall management plan was established without scientific data concerning the animals' impact on the refuge's ecosystem, he said.

In June, University of North Carolina study of the refuge's ecosystem commenced to determine the animals' impact on the refuge's entire ecosystem. Findings from the two-year will be used to formulate future refuge management plans, Hoff said.

"We're going to wait for the science," he said. "In the meantime, there is no pressure to remove any of the horses," Hoff said.

Meanwhile, Hoff said the Corolla herd's population is currently within levels proposed in the bill.

"At 115 horses, they’re within the level they're requesting," he said.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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