The Outer Banks’ mysterious mustangs

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Q: What are you doing to help keep the horses alive?

A: The Corolla Wild Horse Fund works to educate people, both visitors and natives, about the wild horses. A huge part of that education is trying to get people to understand that these are not domesticated horses and that they need to keep a minimum distance of 50 feet from them. Additionally, they cannot feed, pet, entice or attract the attention of the horses.

Q: How many horses are allowed to roam the lands?

A: Our mandate is to have a herd of about 60 horses on the island. Historically, when the babies are born, we have more colts (males) born than fillies (females), which can cause problems as the colts get old enough to want to fight the older stallions to take over the herds. Too many stallions can cause a lot of fighting and trouble, including injuries to the horses.

Q: Are you trying to control the herd’s population growth?

A: Yes and no. We are looking at different methods of population control, including administering birth control, and recently went down to Shackleford Island, N.C., where they are using birth control.

Reproductive biologist Jay Kirkpatrick, working with the University of California at Davis, began working on wild-horse contraception in the mid-‘80s and, more recently, professor Irwin Liu with UCD has attempted to create a viable birth-control agent that could be administered to wild horses in controlled doses.

The method that works, called “immunocontraception,” is actually an inoculation against pregnancy, where the female horses are darted with a vaccine that prevents conception without interfering with either the horses’ natural behaviors or the food chain — such as when vultures or gulls eat the horses’ carcasses.

At this time, however, we are continuing to work toward herd management and adoptions as ways to control the Corolla wild-horse population.

For more information about the horses, including availability for adoption, visit www.corollawildhorses.com.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).

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