Proposed Bill Would Expand Corolla Wild Horse Herd

The Corolla wild horse herd might grow larger with the passing of a bill currently under consideration by the U.S. House of Representatives' subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs.

Currently, 108 wild horses in the Corolla herd reside on a sanctuary in and around the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge 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.

The proposed legislation, HR 306, the Corolla Wild Horses Protection Act, would allow a herd of not less than 110 free-roaming wild horses in and around such refuge, with a target population of between 120 and 130 free-roaming wild horses.

The bill also calls for the introduction of a small number of free-roaming wild horses from the herd at Cape Lookout National Seashore as is necessary to maintain the genetic viability of the herd, and would allow the horses access to the entire Currituck National Wildlife Refuge including portions currently fenced off to prohibit the horses' access.

Karen McCalpin, executive director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, said the bill is nearly identical to HR 5542, which was put before the U.S. House of Representatives last year.

"That bill did not make it to the House floor before Congress adjourned for the elections, so it was reintroduced under a new bill number this session," she said.

McCalpin said the bill is crucial to the herd's health and survival.

"These horses are already on the near-extinction list," she said.

Michael Hutchins, executive director and chief executive officer of The Wildlife Society, said increasing the herd's size would negatively affect the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge environment.

"Herds of feral horses cause significant changes to barrier island environments," said Hutchins during a recent subcommittee hearing. "As large herbivores, they alter landscapes through trampling soils and vegetation, selectively grazing palatable plants, and altering the distribution of nutrients in the ecosystem."

The bill remains under Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs subcommittee consideration.

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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