COROLLA, N.C. (WAVY) – The Corolla Wild Horse Fund said Thursday it was working to educate the public on the dangers of getting too close to the horses, after receiving pictures of a family interacting with them.
The Fund said a visitor provided pictures last weekend from the beach in Corolla that show children less than 50 feet from the horses. A Currituck County ordinance prohibits getting within 50 feet of the animals. Signs are posted in Corolla with the warning, and a violation carries a $50 fine.
Karen McCalpin, who has worked with the Fund for eight years, said there are only about 200 Colonial Spanish Mustangs left in the world and they are on a critically endangered, nearly extinct breed list.
“These horses are heritage horses. They carry in their DNA a very rare and unique breed. They were brought here in the 1520s by the conquistadores and have managed to remain pure since then,” she said.
When horses become accustomed to people and they start approaching them, the organization has to remove them from the beach, she said. “I think it’s heartbreaking, because this is their home. They were here first,” McCalpin said.
She also said the interactions can be dangerous to visitors.
“Our horses see thousands of people all summer long. They’re very tolerant, but they’re not tame. Those children could have been bitten or kicked or worse, gotten in the middle of a stallion fight,” McAlpin said.
She said the organization is working to get federal protection for the horses.
Jay Bender, a tour operator with Corolla Outback Adventures, said he warns his customers not to get too close: “We actually prefer 100 feet to 150. I think that’s where hopefully the trend’s going to go.”
Bender said there are consequences for tour groups that violate the ordinance.
“We can actually be sanctioned to close down for several days, depending on the number of infractions,” he said.
The Currituck County Sheriff’s Office said it gave a citation to a man pictured in the photos provided to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund after finding the family Thursday. The man told a deputy he did not know about the ordinance, investigators said.