Update on the Banker Horses and Hurricane Irene

I spoke with Karen McCalpin, executive director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund on Monday and I’m happy to report that all the horses are fine!  Karen bravely stayed on the island so that she could be available if the horses needed her. 

There are 128 horses on Corolla, and it has twice the landmass as its neighbor Shackleford.  There is a ridge on the island that’s higher ground, and it’s primarily maritime forest.  The horses know to go there in a bad storm and that is exactly what they did. Many of the horses also took shelter in people’s carports.  Karen found 52 horses on the beach on Sunday morning out in the sun and standing in the surf.  Karen sent me these photos from her Sunday nose count.  As you can see, the horses look healthy and happy. 

There are sand roads behind the dunes and those were flooded, but the Corolla Wild Horse Fund’s herd manager went out on Sunday as soon as the water had receded.  He saw the harems (family groups of horses) where he expected to find them. 

Karen was unable to reach the foundation on Schackelford as of Monday, but I called her back today for an update.  She was able to make contact with the foundation on Shackelford who said the horses were safe.  There was even a colt born, whom they named Aftermath. 

The Banker Horses are one of the most endangered breeds in the world—only 240 or so left, Karen told me.  Recent DNA studies discovered only one maternal line on Corolla and four on Shackleford, so the gene pool is very shallow indeed.  The Corolla and the Shackleford horses are almost separate breeds.  Although they are related, they have been apart geographically for a long time and have not interbred.  There is legislation in Washington D.C. now to allow a mare line to be introduced into the Corolla herd to strengthen the bloodline.  Sadly, the horses on Ocracoke are no longer considered Bankers due to a genetic collapse. 

Banker Horses are considered Colonial Spanish Mustangs due to their unique heritage. 

It costs around $150,000 each year to run the Corolla Fund and look after the herd.  If you’d like to make a donation visit www.corollawildhorses.com

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