COROLLA, N.C. — A study set to begin early next year could resolve debate over the effect of Corolla’s wild horses on North Carolina’s maritime forests, marshland and wet meadows.
The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk reported that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to work with North Carolina State University on the study.
Currituck National Wildlife Refuge manager Mike Hoff says the approximately 100 wild horses graze on grasses also used by waterfowl for food and shelter. Hoff says migratory bird habitat is the primary mission for the more than 4,500-acre refuge.
He says during the two-year study, horses, feral hogs or deer will be blocked from some areas to gauge the effect of each species on habitat. One fenced area of 143 acres, already in place, excludes all three species and appears more lush than the surrounding area, Hoff said.
The horses are a popular tourist attraction along the Outer Banks.
The study and others to follow are expected to show how many wild horses best keep the herd healthy and have a minimal effect on the refuge. “There’s probably a happy medium in there somewhere,” Hoff said. “We just have to find out what it is scientifically.”
A 1999 management plan limits the number of horses to 60, but that limit hasn’t been enforced over the years. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund petitioned Fish and Wildlife last year to increase the herd size to at least 120 to increase the gene pool and allow for a
healthier herd. The request was denied.
Wild horse experts have said a herd of 60 is too small, said Karen McCalpin, executive director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. A wild horse herd on Shackleford Banks remains about 120 on only 3,000 acres, she said.
“We don’t have the level of scientific information to make educated management decisions on the horses,” she said.
The fund has tried to reduce the herd, either through adoption or birth control serum.
The horses roam the 7,500-acre four-wheel-drive area of the Currituck northern Outer Banks, including the refuge and communities of beach rental homes and about 150 permanent
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
A study set to begin early next year could resolve debate over the effect of Corolla’s wild horses on North Carolina’s maritime forests, marshland and wet meadows.
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