Victory for Wild Horses in North Carolina

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Washington, D.C. -- The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) commends the House of Representatives for unanimously passing H.R. 306, the Corolla Wild Horses Protection Act, introduced by Representative Walter B. Jones (R-NC). This bill will provide for a new management plan for the free-roaming Corolla wild horses in and around the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

The Corolla horses’ presence on the island is thought to coincide with the arrival of the Spanish explorers on the American coast in the early 16th century. Today, these beautiful horses roam over 7,500 acres of public and private land in coastal Currituck County, North Carolina.

"This critical piece of legislation will enable the protection and responsible management of a prized herd of Colonial Spanish Mustangs," noted Chris Heyde, deputy director of government and legal affairs for AWI. "Wild horses have held a significant role in North Carolina and our nation’s history and this bill will ensure their preservation."

The current Currituck Outer Banks Wild Horse Management Plan of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides for a maximum of 60 horses, with the population controlled through adoption, relocation, or contraceptive fertility methods. According to Gus Cothran - a leading equine geneticist at Texas A&M University who has conducted extensive research on American wild horses - the genetic variability of the Corolla horses is among the lowest seen in any wild horse population in the country.

H.R. 306 will incorporate Dr. Cothran's recommendation to increase the herd to a minimum of 110 animals, with a target population of between 120 and 130. In addition, the legislation will provide for cost-effective management of the horses while ensuring that natural resources within the refuge are not adversely impacted. The Corolla Wild Horses Protection Act will mandate a viable population control plan for the horses - including auctions, adoptions, contraceptive fertility methods, and other viable options.

AWI supports the bill's goal of increasing the population in and around the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge while addressing concerns over conflicts with endangered species on refuge lands, and commends Representative Jones for his commitment to the protection of both wild and domestic horses.  We hope the Senate will likewise move swiftly to approve the measure when it comes up for consideration in that chamber.

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Media Contact:
Chris Heyde, (202) 446-2142, chris@awionline.org