Rarely seen foal spotted on Shackleford Banks in NC
Only two foals have been documented so far this year on the Shackleford Banks, in part because there are lots of places where the “critically threatened breed” of wild horses can hide on the southern Outer Banks island.
A rare moment of one of the two found at play was captured May 15 by a National Park Service volunteer at Cape Lookout National Seashore and posted on Facebook.
The 20-second video, taken with a telephoto lens, shows the bucking colt racing around its mother, which is trying her best to eat in peace. It has been viewed 30,000 and shared nearly 900 times in 24 hours.
“His mother is keeping an eye on him and turns her head to keep him in sight, but is more interested in eating the new spring grass,” the park service wrote with the video.
Karen Duggan, acting chief of interpretation at Cape Lookout, told the Charlotte Observer that capturing scenes of the foals at play is tough, because they are wary of humans.
“Had the volunteer who took the video not used a telephoto and tried to get closer, the foal would have stopped his play and Mom would have undoubtedly gone into protective mode,” Duggan told the Observer.
It’s against state law to get within 50 feet of the horses, which roam the Shackleford Banks and Corolla areas of the Outer Banks.
The nonprofit Foundation for Shackleford Horses says births among its herd are rare and important.
“The cycle of life, you know. We lost an old mare earlier this year, but come spring, Mother Nature brings new life to the Banks,” said Margaret Poindexter, president of the foundation that co-manages the herd on National Park.
Poindexter told the Observer the foal in the video is only the second she knows of so far this Spring. It appeared in late April.
“There should be about a half a dozen or so more. And there may already be some others we just haven’t discovered yet,” she told the Charlotte Observer.
The wild horses on the Shackleford Banks and Corolla are beloved but notoriously untamed, with the males known to fight viciously (biting and kicking) for turf of females.
“We want folks to enjoy the horses, but from a distance,” says Poindexter. “Especially with the young ones. They can be curious, but watchful mares and stallions can be aggressively protective, so be safe and give plenty of space.”
The wild herds are believed to be descended from stock brought centuries ago to North Carolina by early explorers. Among the biggest threats to the horses are increased development of the barrier islands and growing traffic.