Assateague horses

The National Park Service’s March 2018 population census of the wild horses on Assateague Island revealed 82 horses. Last Friday, a new foal brought the total to 83.

The total population of the Maryland herd is well within the ideal population range. The herd includes 21 stallions and 61 mares.

Early on April 6, the mare N2BHS-AL (also known as Ms. Macky) gave birth to a sorrel foal. The new foal, N2BHS-ALQ, and band live year-round in the very busy developed area and campgrounds. For this reason, the National Park Service expressly reminds visitors that it is essential to remain a minimum of a bus length (40 feett) away from the wild horses at all times.

Everything is new to a foal. N2BHS-ALQ will learn how to interact with the environment from Ms. Macky and other members of its band. Seventy percent of foals in the National Seashore are born in April, May and June, but it is not uncommon for foals to be born during any month of the year. A mare will be very protective of her new foal and it is vitally important for their well-being that visitors give them, and all of the wild horses, plenty of space.

Ms. Macky and foal

Additionally, six horse deaths have been documented in 2018 so far, including five mares—T3L, N6EL, M17GM or “Dee’s Heart,” X15P, and T5AFP or “AR Arianna”—and a stallion (N6BMS, or “Llama Boy”). All those lost were aged individuals having lived out their full lives within the National Seashore.

The National Park Service completes a full census of the horse population in Maryland six times per year, in February, March, May, July, September, and November. Managed as a wildlife population, the Assateague horses are free to roam over approximately 27 miles of the barrier island and can be difficult to find at times. During each census, horses are identified by their distinguishing characteristics, mapped, and counted. Individual horses that are not observed during multiple census periods are presumed dead. The purpose of the census is to monitor the population dynamics of the horse herd in support of the long-term fertility control program initiated in 1994.