Posted January 30, 2006 8:17 a.m. EST
Several years ago when covering the environmental beat I had the pleasure of traveling to the Beaufort area by helicopter. Photographer Jay Jennings and I were covering an elaborate demonstration against offshore oil and natural gas drilling. We took an early morning flight over Shackleford Banks and looked down at wild ponies on the island. Here you will find a herd of more than 100 mustangs. No one knows for sure but if you believe the popular legend these animals descended from horses washed ashore from the wrecks of 18th-century Spanish galleons. These wild horses are all accounted for, numbered, named, and co-managed by the National Park Service and the Foundation for Shackleford Horses Inc. Veteranarians administer regular medical checkups and vaccinations. The park service regulates the size of the herd. If there are too many animals the island habitat won't be able to support them. The mustangs can be a little rough on the environment. As long as visitors maintain a safe distance and do not appear threatening, the horses usually don't shy away when approached. You can get some great photos. You can easily enjoy an entire morning and afternoon among the grassy dunes in search of the ponies. Transportation includes a private ferry from Harkers Island.