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Wild North Carolina horse will be domesticated after tourists took it, park officials say

cape lookout horses.jpg
Krystal Wasley
National Park Service
A mare and her year-old youngster stand near each other as they feed. A white cattle egret perches on the back of the youngster in order to take advantage of the height to hunt insects.

A newborn wild horse will be raised as a domesticated animal after well-meaning tourists took it with them as they left a North Carolina barrier island, officials at a national park said.

The foal followed a group of visitors on Shackleford Banks for two hours on March 26 with no other horses around, according to a Monday news release from the Cape Lookout National Seashore.

When the visitors moved their boat to leave the island, the young horse tried to follow them. The park said the group was worried that the newborn would drown, so they lifted it into their boat and left.

The tourists were cited for removing the horse, and the park said it’s working with them to assist with future educational opportunities and community service projects that will benefit the banks and its horses.

A stallion trying to protect its group of mares might drive them away from where a foal is sleeping, according to the national park. He does that to keep a mare from going back to get her offspring because he doesn’t want to lose her. The newborn might lose its harem in such cases.

Sue Stuska, the park’s wildlife biologist, said in the news release that young horses will follow other horses or even people when separated from their mothers.

Foaling season began on the Shackleford Banks in March, meaning more newborn horses will soon appear on beaches. The banks are part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore, which, along with its wildlife, is federally protected.

Young horses often sleep nearly motionless on their sides for hours, which the park says people often mistake as the foals being injured or dead. Visitors shouldn’t come closer than 50 feet to wildlife, and those who observe strange animal behaviors can call the visitor center or 911.

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