The National Park Service and devoted fans of the Assateague wild horses are pleading with visitors to slow down their driving: a mare and her foal were struck by a hit and run driver, and that mother pony has now died.
An Assateague Island National Seashore park employee found the four-year-old mare named Moonshadow dead in the Oceanside Campground, from injuries apparently caused by a low-speed car crash the previous week along Bayberry Drive.
Her foal was lame and limping from injuries suffered in the same collision but is improving and remains with the herd. Park staff are monitoring her condition, but will allow her to stay in the wild.
She is one of six foals born this year on Assateague who have not yet been named. Their names will be chosen by the public through a combination of auctions, raffles, and with input from the Assateague community. The annual naming of the foals is a key fundraiser organized by the Assateague Island Alliance, which advocates for the National Seashore’s Wild Horse Management Program.
In a social media post, the National Park Service wrote, “The NPS is committed to protecting the Assateague horses, now and forever. They are a treasured part of the Assateague experience.”
NPS is responsible for “maintaining a sustainable population” of the free-roaming herd of horses, while also allowing visitor recreation and access to the National Seashore. They ask everyone to slow down and drive with caution on Assateague’s roads, looking out for horses and other wildlife, and reporting any accidents to officers at the ranger station.
Unfortunately, vehicle strikes are one of the most common and deadly dangers for wildlife in parks. Since 1982, 53 horses have been hit by cars and of those, 35 have been killed. Five of them were hit and run accidents, never solved.
“Ultimately,” NPS says, “staying safe and keeping wildlife wild is up to you!”
-Meg Walburn Viviano