Friday, February 6, 2009

Corolla Wild Horses being pushed to the brink

The Corolla Wild Horses, Outer Banks' most recognized and popular residents, have been upgraded in their status, which is not a good thing. According to Karen McCalpin, executive director of the Wild Horse Fund, the herd has been moved from Critical to Critical/Nearly Extinct. Below is an email from McCalpin explaining the status change:

After consulting with Dr. Sue Stuska, National Park Service, manager of the Shackleford Banks Banker strain Colonial Spanish Mustangs, I have notified the Equus Survival Trust today that our horses unfortunately qualify to be moved from critical status to critical/nearly extinct. This category requires fewer than 100 active breeding mares. Even combined with the Shackleford mares, we have fewer than 100 between the two wild herds. It is becoming more imperative than ever that we employ every effort and strategy to maintain a large enough herd in Corolla for genetic viability, while increasing our efforts to create off site breed conservation programs. Our primary mission however is to keep these horses wild and free for as long as possible. A herd size of 60 will not allow that. Please be assured that we continue to work diligently for that change. The American wild horse continues to be under siege across the country. We must do everything that we can to hold on to and protect our heritage horses.

Karen H. McCalpin
Executive Director
Corolla Wild Horse Fund
P.O. Box 361
1126 Schoolhouse Lane
Corolla, NC 27927

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Wild Horse tours to potentially be regulated

County officials and locals are looking for a way to keep sight-seeing and horse tours to a reasonable, sustainable, and safe operation....something that has been needed as tour operators have increased in number. I agree with statements in the article that the unguided tours have become a problem as unsupervised visitors have disregarded many property and safety rules. Happy to see some oversight on behalf of residents and officials. Below is an article from the VA Pilot's Jeff Hampton:

Outer Banks' residents seek controls over horse-watchers

By Jeff Hampton
The Virginian-Pilot
© February 5, 2009
Corolla's wild horses continue to draw crowds each summer, fueling an expansion of sightseeing tours that have locals calling for controls on trespassing and crazy driving.

"It's going to get shut down," said Richard Brown, owner of Wild Horse Adventure Tours and supporter of strong rules for tour operators. "Some of them don't care. They're going out there and make as much money as they can until they get rid of it completely."

But coming up with an ordinance that regulates horse-watching traffic on the rugged unpaved roads of the northern Outer Banks neighborhoods isn't easy.

"I don't want to see it get to the point where all of a sudden they say, 'OK, let's cut it out entirely,' " said Vance Aydlett, a Currituck County commissioner. "But turning people loose to run through those mud holes at 40 miles per hour is not a good thing."

Aydlett proposes a committee of tour operators, county staff and northern Outer Banks residents to come up with a plan.

Among the ideas already proposed are bigger speed limit signs, designated tour areas, and operator registrations that include signs on the sides of vehicles for easy identification and easy reporting for misbehavior.

At least six companies operate tours to see a wild herd of about 100 horses roaming through 12,000 acres in Currituck's northern Outer Banks. Two more companies could try to get permits for this summer, said Karen McCalpin, director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

"It's definitely lucrative," she said.

Most of the area is protected and secluded except for a few small communities such as Carova. Typically the horse herd is divided into smaller groups that can be seen grazing in a yard or standing along one of the unpaved roads.

Some tours are guided with a lead SUV such as a Jeep in front of one or more other vehicles. Some have customers ride as a group in a large SUV such as a Suburban. Some companies rent vehicles and provide a map or GPS device. One company runs a large four-wheel-drive bus.

In some cases, a guide vehicle leads a line of eight or more others in a convoy going up the beach through sun-bathing tourists. Eventually such convoys cross over the dunes and into populated neighborhoods.

The worst culprits are among the individuals who rent vehicles without a guide, McCalpin said. Residents report some of them driving onto private property and racing through large mud holes in the roads at high speeds rather than trying to find horses.

"It's a difficult thing to regulate," said Ben Woody, director of the Currituck County planning department.

Corolla's wild horses, believed to be descended from Spanish mustangs, are among the major attractions to the Currituck Outer Banks.

Contributions to the wild horse fund benefit from the publicity.

T-shirts, caps and other items are hot sellers that go toward herd management.

Jeff Hampton, (252) 338-0159,