Bill to expand wild mustang herd clears U.S. House

By on February 7, 2012

Wild horses on the beach above Corolla. (Pat Morris)

A bill that would allow an expansion of the Corolla wild horse population has been passed unanimously by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., would allow the allowable herd size to grow from 60 to between 110 and 130. The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

“The Corolla horses are a key part of North Carolina’s heritage. They’re also an important element of the Outer Banks economy,” said Jones.

According to Corolla Wild Horse Fund director Karen McCalpin, the most recent count had 144 horses roaming the Currituck Outer Banks.

“The passage of this bill by the House is a critical step in ensuring the genetic viability and physical health of the wild horses,” McCalpin said.

“They are listed as critically endangered. We hope that the strong bipartisan support for saving these horses will move the Senate to do the right thing for them as well”, McCalpin said.

The wild horse population is managed under an agreement between the U.S. Department of the Interior, the State of North Carolina, Currituck County, and the non-profit Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

The bill, H.R. 306, specifies the Wild Horse Fund will pay for all costs of the plan.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages Currituck National Wildlife Refuge and is part of the horses habitat, has expressed concern over expanding the herd and its impact on the refuge.

“There is an on-going research study of the effects of horses, hogs, and deer on wetland meadows on and adjacent to the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge,” said Mike Bryant, Project Leader for the North Carolina Coastal Plain Refuges Complex. “The study is scheduled to conclude in August.”

The horses are descendants of the Colonial Spanish Mustangs, which is designated as the official state horse of North Carolina.

“These majestic horses have played an important role in North Carolina’s history, and it is vital they continue to flourish for years to come,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Government Relations.

“The House recognizes the importance of protecting these equine icons of the Outer Banks, and hopefully the Senate will do the same,” Perry said.

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