State News

Drivers threaten OBX wild horses, caretakers say

Posted May 29, 2009
Updated June 2, 2009

— Sheriff's investigators and caretakers said the death of a wild horse struck by a vehicle represents a type of loss that is happening too often for the herd on the Outer Banks.

Drivers putting horses at risk Drivers putting horses at risk

"We've had two horses hit by vehicles this year, and no one is being held accountable for it," said Karen McCalpin, executive director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

That total includes "Spec," a horse that was hit by a vehicle on the beach late last Friday or early last Saturday.

"A person or persons hit him so hard they literally broke his leg in half," McCalpin said.

Marks in the sand showed that Spec managed to drag himself for about a mile trying to return to his herd. He was so badly injured that rescuers had to euthanize him.

McCalpin said she found ATV tracks around Spec's hoof prints and suspects that all-terrain vehicle riders chased the horse onto the beach. He was hit about 2 miles from his normal territory behind the dune line.

"I think it was on purpose," herd manager Wesley Stallings said.

Stallings said that Spec's death hit him hard – it was Stallings' first day on the job after moving from Wake Forest. Spec belonged to the first group of horses he saw, Stallings said.

Around 100 wild horses roam an isolated 11-mile northern stretch of the barrier island, near the Virginia border. The area has houses, fire departments and mail service but is unpaved and accessed only by off-road vehicles. The beach is used as a road in that area.

The horses are a major tourist attraction in the summer months, when the area's population swells by thousands. Some take organized tours to see the animals, but others rent off-road vehicles to go into the area by themselves.

Lt. Jason Banks, with the Currituck County Sheriff's Office, said that more than 300 ATV riders have permits for the area. The height at which Spec's leg was broken indicates that it could have been hit by the bumper or rack on nearly any off-road vehicle, he said.

The sheriff's office aims to find the reckless drivers who have hit and killed the three horses in recent months, Banks said.

"For Corolla, it's a high priority, especially because this horse suffered," he said.

The wild horses are descendants of Spanish mustangs abandoned or stranded on the Outer Banks by explorers around 500 years ago. In 2008, the American Livestock Breed Conservancy, which tracks endangered livestock and poultry breeds, rated the horses as threatened, one category above extinction.

Stallings said he aims to protect the horses from the dangers humans present.

"They were here first," he said.


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  • smiling.spirit May 29, 2009

    "2 dead hores and they want to take vehicles off of the outer banks".

    A crime was committed - the story clearly states that this does not appear to be an "accident" by any stretch. This magnificent animal was tortured, tormented, and then purposely injured and left to die. Wrong. Period.

  • JimmyJay May 29, 2009

    For you "ULTRA" conservatives & those who are scared to death someone is going to take away someone's right...LISTEN UP!!! This IS NOT about banning cars on the beach or how big of a soap box you can find to stand on. This is about being a true & decent human being. I'm not saying to go out & ban vehicles on the beach. We need the person(s) who chaased that poor animal down to face the harshest justice allowable by law. No, I'm not a PETA freak! I just wish I knew who the culprits were...

  • grayboomerang May 29, 2009

    I am so sick of every story on this board turning into something about Liberals...gesh! Some of you need to go out and run for office since you hate the government (and no, I'm not a liberal, but am sick of everything boiling down to what political side you belong to)

    I am a horse owner and refused to read the original story because I knew it would upset me.

    People aren't slowing down because people just don't care in this's all about me. Whether it's a dog, horse, person....people will run over you if you are in their way. I had to slam on brakes countless times today coming home...because of impatient, rude, selfish people driving 2 ton vehicles.

    We live in a sick world where too many people are getting jollies by hurting/killing animals and people.

    It truly is a MAD world.

  • US VET May 29, 2009

    I have been all for vehicles having the right to drive on the beach, but after hearing of this I am now for banning all vehicles on the beaches. It's our responsibilty to protect the horses , turtles , and birds from "human ( term used loosly) encrochment..

  • Frank Downtown May 29, 2009

    vehicles should not be allowed on the beached at all and completely banned from islands with no residences.

  • 6strings May 29, 2009

    "Can't you see something as big as a horse?" Sadly, that seems to be the problem. From what I got out of the story, they could see it and were antagonizing it. Freakin' idiots. I hope they catch them. Those who harm animals are among the weakest, most cowardly, and most insecure people around.

  • All child molesters should die May 29, 2009

    Too bad it was the poor horse(s) that died!

    WRAL, you need to pass this comment! There is nothing wrong with it!


  • 1Moms_View May 29, 2009

    This makes me sick. I hope they locate the dirtbag that left the horse to suffer like this. IF it was an accident, then the person would have come forward. The tracks left indicated the person chased down the horse before hitting it though.

  • SoFarFromHome May 29, 2009

    lbl3373, I couldn't agree with you more. It is the most obsurd thing you could do, by hurting an animal. Horses bear so much weight... seeing them hurt, emaciated, or just unkept turns my stomach.

    May they pay big time.

  • tarheelskier May 29, 2009

    "Can't you see something as big as a horse?"

    I agree completely.... and chances are the horse was trying like hell to get away from these guys.