Local residents of the remote Outer Banks islands of North Carolina fear that a recent spree of wild horse killings in the western United States might be turning into a disturbing national trend.

In Nov. 2001, four wild horses and a domestic mule were shot with high-powered rifles by unknown assailants and left to die.

The dead horses–a stallion and three mares–were part of the Corolla wild horse herd, a free-roaming band of feral horses believed to be descended from Spanish settlers’ horses.

Isolated bands of “beach horses” are tourist attractions along the U.S. coast from Georgia to the famous Assateague ponies of Maryland and Virginia. The docile Corolla horses enjoy life undisturbed by humans for most of the year.

Donna and Gene Snow, co-directors of the non-profit Corolla Wild Horse Fund, Inc., particularly regret the nearly ten percent loss of the small herd. “Sheriff Susan Johnson is still investigating the killings,” they told The Horse in January.

“We’re getting phone calls and e-mails from all over the country…we’ve opened an account in the Bank of Currituck called The Wild Horse Reward Fund. Checks can be sent directly to the bank at 824 Ocean Trail, Corolla, NC 27927.”

A $10,000 bounty is offered to anyone with information leading to the arrest of the shooters. Shooting wild horses is a felony, punishable by up to 15 months in prison.

“It’s meanness at its worst,” Gene Snow asserts.

For more on the Corolla wild horses, visit www.corollawildhorses.com.