NPS responds after well-intentioned visitors take wild horse off Shackelford Banks

By on April 4, 2022

(National Park Service)

The newborn foal that now resides with the Foundation for Shackleford Horses. (NPS Photo)

On April 4, the National Park Service (NPS) issued this statement on an unusual and fateful interaction on the Cape Lookout National Seashore between a wild horse and some clearly well-meaning visitors — one, however, with a cautionary message.

On March 26, 2022, a group of visitors on Shackleford Banks encountered a newborn foal in the Wade Shore area. The foal followed the group for about two hours; there were no other horses present during the time the foal followed them. A stallion, when it is trying to protect its group of mares, might drive them away from a location where a foal is sleeping, then keep a mare from going back to get her foal because he does not want to lose her. In this case, the foal might lose contact with its harem.

When the visitors moved to their boat to leave the island the foal tried to follow them. With the best of intentions, thinking that the foal would drown, they lifted the foal into the boat and departed, thereby removing the horse from its natural habitat, its mother, and the herd.

Once a foal has been removed from the seashore, it is unlikely that the park can reunite it with its dam (mother). Although these visitors thought that they were doing the right thing, this foal can’t be returned to Shackleford Banks and will now live a life as a domesticated animal, rather than as a wild stallion. The foal is currently in the care of the Foundation for Shackleford Horses.

Dr. Sue Stuska, the park’s Wildlife Biologist explains: “For a short period early in a foal’s life, it instinctively follows its dam without necessarily knowing which creature she is. When separated, the foal will follow other horses or even people.”

As a result of their actions, the visitors have been cited for removing the horse from Shackleford Banks, and the park is working with this group to assist with future educational opportunities and community service projects that will benefit Shackleford Banks and the horses protected there.

March is the beginning of foaling season on Shackleford Banks, a part of Cape Lookout National Seashore which along with its wildlife, is federally protected. Visitors observing strange animal behaviors may call the park visitor center (the phone number is on the brown information signs on the island) or 911 to report to park staff. Anything urgent, serious, or potentially life threatening to the visitor or the wildlife should immediately be called in to 911 which will then dispatch park resources to the site.





  • Kathy Knight

    And the people need to be charged for every penny of care that this foal needs for the rest of its life. How SAD!

    Monday, Apr 4 @ 3:02 pm
  • Martha F.

    And no one thought to call the Park Service or even animal control, when the situation arose?

    Monday, Apr 4 @ 7:53 pm
  • Annette Dague

    Could you please be specific in how the visitors should have handled this. I think I may have done the same thing that they did, considering the circumstances you described.

    Monday, Apr 4 @ 8:21 pm
  • Rightful Advisor

    And if they’d left the foal alone and it had indeed drowned people like Kathy and Martha would be on here telling us all how evil and inhumane these people were. You can’t win with some people.

    Monday, Apr 4 @ 9:24 pm
  • Surf123

    You cannot win when horse/animal zealots are involved as they prioritize animals over humans. There is no reasoning with them. Do keep in mind that in other countries, including those in the first world, eating horses is normal and not looked down upon.

    It’s time for a final round up of the “wild” horses in Currituck. They are under continual harassment by sight-seeing tours. Their range has been over taken by tourists and the tourists are not leaving so there is no other solution except moving them out of Currituck.

    Tuesday, Apr 5 @ 8:09 am
  • Bob

    It is unfortunate that not everyone knows everything about horses like Kathy does… It is bad enough that these good Samaritans apparently are being punished with required community service, which is likely a difficult thing if they don’t happen to live nearby. I guess the lesson here is to always ignore wildlife, lest you get in trouble for trying to be helpful.

    As to Martha’s comment, not a bad idea if someone had thought of it, but is there even cell coverage on Shackelford Banks? Assuming you can figure out who to call…

    Tuesday, Apr 5 @ 10:59 am
  • Tessa

    Brown signs over the island, 911, to easy. Don’t go if you are not educated about the area. One search will tell you what you need.

    Wednesday, Apr 20 @ 6:26 am