THE FUTURE OF THE HERD originally published March 2022
Every foal born to the wild Banker herd has the potential to contribute greatly to the future of the breed. A healthy, sustainable herd size should total 120 to 130 horses.
A Corolla herd size lower than 110 could result in high levels of inbreeding and low levels of genetic diversity. When numbers drop below suggested minimums, the horses are also at risk of being completely eliminated by disease, drought, fire, flood, or hurricane. We could lose the Banker horses forever.
The decision to remove any horse from the wild is one that should never be taken lightly. Removing a foal is an even more difficult choice to make. Rescued horses can never return to the wild once removed due to the potential risk of introducing disease to the isolated wild herd, among other reasons.
This means intervention is a last-resort option — a decision only made once it is clear a horse is suffering from catastrophic, fatal injury or illness that prevents it from keeping up with its family group, traveling to fresh water, and/or eating.
Even conditions caused by end-of-life complications (failing teeth, arthritis, etc.) are not always causes for removal. We do our best to monitor an affected horse while still allowing it to live out its life naturally in the wild as it deserves the chance to. We will intervene and humanely euthanize in the field when it becomes clear a horse is needlessly suffering and clearly not going to recover.
There are special cases in which we have no choice but to remove a foal from the wild, such as Brio. Brio was born last summer and remained with his mother, Monkey, until late February 2022. On February 27, Fund staff was notified that Brio appeared to be alone, calling out for his mother. Since Brio was of weaning age and did not appear to be in immediate physical danger, we felt it was best to monitor him and give him a chance to either reunite with his mother, or join up with the harem containing his father, Rocky, and several other horses.
On March 7, it became clear to our herd manager and our trainer that Brio remained alone, and his health was declining. His chances of thriving on his own were slim. They brought Brio to the rescue farm, where our vet determined he had developed pneumonia and was underweight. Since then, Brio has received extra special care and attention to ensure a healthy recovery. While we are sad to have lost a foal from the wild herd, we are grateful for the outpouring support we have received for Brio’s rehabilitation. He is adapting to farm-life quite well and will surely be a favorite among visitors to the farm this summer. To learn more about Brio, visit corollawildhorses.org.
OBSERVING THE WILD BANKER HORSES originally published January 2022
We are often asked what does our team of Sanctuary Observers do and why do they do it? Our current roster varies between three to five observation staff depending on the time of year and amount of daylight. However, the Fund always has at least one Observer on the 4x4 each day to watch the herd.
Their role is of paramount importance to the Fund’s mission. Observers function as our first eyes and ears in tracking ailing or wounded horses. In even more surprising ways, their daily records of sightings provide a wealth of data that is continually compiled, analyzed, and interpreted to furnish a greater understanding of individual horses, their relations and dynamics, and their movements and trends.
This process of scientific wildlife observation includes reports of which horses are sighted, when and where they are seen (date, time, and geographical location), the weather conditions (effects of the environment), as well as notes that may interpret behaviors witnessed. Our Observers and their studies of the horses have minimal disturbance to both the horses and the ecosystem in general. In most cases, they view and record these observations from within their vehicle unless an emergency occurs and requires intervention.
Our breed conservation and registration team compile these observation records for each wild horse. Each wild horse has their own file containing their physical description, photos, field notes, DNA report, PZP records (if appropriate), and any other significant information we gather.
CWHF Observers also act as excellent educators. At times, they step in when violations and/or potentially dangerous behavior by the public is reported. Sanctuary Observers can approach a violating individual and educate them regarding the Currituck County Wild Horse Ordinance. They may also explain to the violator why their actions are not safe for the horses or for themselves. Employees of the Fund do not, however, have enforcement authority. If bad behavior continues after advisement, Observers may contact the Sheriff’s Department and inform them of a situation when necessary.
Observing and recording the behavior of Corolla’s wild horses in the 4X4 area greatly helps the Fund in managing the herd as a whole while also contributing to our mission to protect and conserve this highly threatened breed for years to come.
YOUR SUPPORT IN ACTION originally published December 2021
There is nothing better than a pile of sand to play on! Virginia Dare is definitely queen of the hill.
You may remember a photo we posted a few months ago on Facebook of Kitty Hawk standing on an even bigger pile of sand that we were getting ready to use for some construction projects around the farm.
Well, we have been very busy, and the work is nearly done!
We have cleared and fixed our ditches, culverts, and have added a swale in the big pasture that tends to flood. We also have brand new hurricane-rated shelters in this pasture, complete with concrete foundations.
Our farm on the mainland provides permanent sanctuary for any horse removed from the wild herd and provides a space for people to get up close and personal with these special horses.
As we continue to focus on our breed conservation program, the farm and its projects and enhancements will continue to evolve. None of these enhancements are possible without your support.
The rescue farm is a vital part of ensuring that these horses continue to be a vibrant part of our living history.