A support group for wild horses that roam the northern end of North Carolinas Outer Banks is going to the public for help in pushing the U.S. Senate to adopt a bill that would enlarge the size of the herd.
The Corolla Wild Horse Fund issued a news release Tuesday, saying the bill has been sent to a Senate committee and is in danger of dying if not acted upon by Senators during their upcoming lame duck session.
The Corolla Wild Horses Protection Act has the support of both U.S. Senators from North Carolina, Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican Richard Burr. It passed the House on a voice vote on Feb. 6 but has been sitting in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee since March.
The bill would allow the herd to grow to 120 to 130 horses, with never fewer than 110. Currently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulates the herd size to 60 horses.
Corolla Wild Horse Fund members say a 60-horse herd is too small to maintain genetic diversity.
Results of recent genetic testing show an alarming level of inbreeding and the presence of only one maternal line, the funds Christie Finn said in a news release. Managing the Corolla herd at 60 is managing for genetic collapse and eventual extinction.
In the past, Fish and Wildlife officials have said a larger herd would cause environmental damage along the ecologically fragile Outer Banks. The Fish and Wildlife Service owns about 3,000 of the 7,500 acres available to the horses.
But members of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund maintain that a vast majority of the horses live on private property.
The horses are Spanish mustangs, thought to have been brought to the New World in the 1500s by Spanish explorers.
Another herd of horses lives farther to the south, along the Shackleford Banks near Cape Lookout National Seashore. A bill signed into law 14 years ago by President Clinton set the size of that herd at 120 to 130 horses.