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One of the Outer Banks’ most famous wild horses - featured on billboards - has died

A wild mustang known around the world for being featured prominently in Outer Banks tourism materials has died at the height of his stardom.

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund announced Monday that Roamer, a 15-year-old stallion, died Saturday, just 24 hours after being diagnosed with a tear in his GI tract that led to sepsis.

“People out there know who Roamer is, but may not realize it,” said Meg Puckett, the herd manager for the Corolla wild horses.

“He was sort of a legend, on the cover of the tourism fliers and even on billboards. He was an ambassador for the horses.”

Roamer was among the oldest of the herd of nearly 100 horses, and also one of those who could not be easily tamed. He frequently refused to stay fenced into the area reserved for wild horses, and took off to wander among the tourists, Puckett says.

Herd managers eventually had to relocate him to a rehabilitation site operated by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, out of fear he would be hit by an off-road vehicle.

“That’s how he got his name, Roamer,” Puckett said. “He eventually became part of our ‘Meet a Mustang’ program (at the rehab site), which lets people have a more intimate experience meeting the horses.”

The herds on Corolla and the nearby Shackleford Banks are believed to be descended from Colonial Spanish Mustangs brought to North America by early explorers, according to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

A historian who visited the Outer Banks in the 1850s described the horses’ unique appearance as “small size, with rough shaggy coats, and long manes; their hoofs in many cases grow to unusual lengths,” says the fund’s website.

Colic is a common ailment among the horses, which have sensitive digestive systems, Puckett said.

“Our vet had seen several cases in the area (where Roamer lived) that week, because of the temperature changes,” she said. “It was less than 24 hours after (Roamer) first showed signs of colic that we made the difficult decision to let him go...This has been absolutely devastating for all of us.”

Roamer was buried on Corolla Wild Horse Fund property, “in a sunny clearing” that he led Puckett to on the morning of his death.

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