Wild Horse to Be Domesticated After Well-Meaning Tourists Took It From Cape Lookout National Seashore

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by Aykut Unlupinar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A newborn wild horse that was taken off of North Carolina’s Cape Lookout National Seashore by visitors will have to be raised in captivity.

According to The Charlotte Observer, the foal began following a group of people on March 26th. And continued to trail them for two straight hours. The situation concerned the parkgoers because there were no other horses around.

When it came time for the visitors to leave Cape Lookout by boat, the wild horse started to walk out into the water. And when it did, the people lifted the animal into the vessel out of fear that the foal would drown. Then, they left with it aboard.

Park officials say that the herd consists of more than 120 horses. And it would be nearly impossible to reunite the baby with its mother. So now, it will have to live “as a domesticated animal” at the Foundation for Shackleford Horses, a nonprofit that advocates for the park’s horses.

While the Cape Lookout National Seashore stressed that the visitors were “well-meaning,” law enforcement still cited those responsible for the removal. And they could face a fine of $5,000 or spend up to six months in jail.

Cape Lookout Park Officials Warn Visitors About Interacting with Wild Horses

In a statement, park officials explained that the foal’s behavior was completely normal. And it’s not uncommon for young horses to lose their herds.

“A stallion, when it is trying to protect its group of mares, might drive them away from a location where a foal is sleeping (and) then keep a mare from going back to get her foal because he does not want to lose her. In this case, the foal might lose contact with its harem,” the park wrote.

And Sue Stuska, a wildlife biologist with the National Park Service, added that foals often attach themselves to visitors. During the early days of a foal’s life, it will follow a mare “instinctively.” However, it won’t necessarily know why. And if it loses sight of the mother, it will start following other horses or sometimes people.

Furthermore, the park is hoping to educate the public so it doesn’t put more horses in danger. In the statement, officials added that March is the start of foaling season on the Outer Banks. So in the coming weeks, visitors will see many foals on the beaches.

And the young horses are motionless for hours as they sleep, which often concerns guests who think the animals are hurt. But all wildlife on the island is federally protected. So under no circumstances should a person come within 50 feet of an animal.

If someone is concerned for a foal’s wellbeing, they should leave them alone and call the visitor center or 911 for help.