One of the oldest wild horses on the Outer Banks has died. ‘He was a tough old guy’

One of the oldest wild horses roaming North Carolina’s Outer Banks had to be euthanized, according to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

The horse, known as Captain, was suffering from “emaciation” due to a series of health problems that had worsened through the summer, the fund posted Monday on Facebook.

Captain was almost 30, making him a horse tens of thousands of tourists had likely watched and photographed since 1989.

“He was at the very end of his life. Mid to late 20s is really old for a wild horse,” herd manager Meg Puckett told McClatchy news group. “He was a tough old guy ... one of the kindest, most gracious stallions any of us ever worked with.”

Captain was the “elderly” member of a herd that numbers about 100 horses. The fund had begun monitoring him last spring, after noting he emerged “abnormally thin” from the previous winter. When his condition didn’t improve, X-rays revealed a mouth full of cracked and broken teeth, leading to a hole that went directly up into his sinus cavity, Puckett said.

“We left him on the beach all summer because, despite his weight and overall poor condition, he was mobile and alert, and grazing,” Puckett told McClatchy.

“But once the infection flared up, his behavior did change and it was obvious he was feeling very bad. ... Our vet recommended that we do the humane thing and end his suffering, and we knew it was the right course of action. He was done fighting, and ready to let go.”

Puckett added that Captain died Monday “safe, loved, and well-fed.”

Deaths among the wild horses are often tragic in circumstance, including several that have been killed in recent years by vehicles. In September, 28 members of the herd on Cedar Island drowned when they were washed into the Pamlico Sound by a wall of water generated by Hurricane Dorian.

The herds on Corolla and the Shackleford Banks withstood the hurricane without fatalities.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.