One of those defiant wild horses roaming North Carolina’s Outer Banks gave birth as Hurricane Dorian was bearing down on the Carolinas.
Cape Lookout National Seashore announced the “surprise” birth Thursday, noting the foal was born to the herd on the Shackleford Banks, a barrier island within the national park near Beaufort.
“She was born some time around the storm, but we cannot say for sure if it was before, during or after,” National Park Service officials said in a Facebook post.
It’s hard to say because a mandatory evacuation of all barrier islands was in place just before the storm hit late last week.
The nonprofit Foundation for Shackleford Horses says this counts as the fourth foal born this year, bringing the herd to just under 120 horses. Foundation officials believe the entire herd survived Hurricane Dorian, but a census remains ongoing.
“This mare was hugely pregnant the last time she was observed and low pressure sometimes triggers childbirth in humans, so....,” foundation officials told the Charlotte Observer. “This is not our first ‘storm baby.’ We had one in Isabel (2003), and one in Irene (2011).”
Herd managers spotted the foal early this week — after Dorian had moved up the East Coast — but postponed announcing the birth until a photo could be taken, officials said on Facebook.
Getting a photo wasn’t easy because it is illegal to get within 50 feet of the horses. But the National Park Service eventually got an image using a telephoto lens, the foundation said.
Outer Banks wild horses, called banker horses, survive hurricanes by huddling together in the maritime forest and putting their “butts to the wind,” experts say. The herds are believed to be descended from Spanish mustangs brought by early settlers to the Americas, historians say.
Within minutes of the birth announcement Thursday, suggested names for the foal — from Stormy to Dorian — began to flood the Cape Lookout Facebook page.
As of Thursday, the foal had not been named. And even when that happens, it won’t be made public, officials said.
“We don’t publicize the horses’ names because we don’t want folks to equate them with domesticated horses or treat them like pets,” foundation officials told the Charlotte Observer. “We assign a number based on year of birth and birth order in the herd.”
The birth of a horse was all the more remarkable given the heavy damage to Cape Lookout National Seashore during Hurricane Dorian.
Park officials say dozens of inlets were carved through the barrier islands by the storm, debris was dumped into the harbor, and historic buildings were flooded and damaged by winds.