NEW FOR THURSDAY: Assateague Welcomes New Filly

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ASSATEAGUE — Spring seems to be showing signs of new life everywhere, including on Assateague Island.

A new wild horse foal was born into the herd at Assateague Island on Friday March 9. A young filly, with pinto coloration showing mostly white hair with brown patches was born to 8-year-old mare April Star (also known by the alpha numeric name N2BHS-C).

The gangly long-legged newborn has been seen by many park visitors enjoying Assateague Island within the past week. She is one of the 114 horses that live wild and free on the barrier island. Park visitors Carol and Joshua Harmon of Salisbury were delighted to observe the new foal on Wednesday.

“We come to the park often and take tons of photos of these horses,” they said.

The Harmons and other visitors from Ontario, Canada watched the foal, her mother and their band (the group of horses maintained by one stallion) from a safe distance across the road from the mare and foal. Numerous cars drove by slowly to catch a glimpse of the new foal. She spent her time doing what newborns do, nursing from mom, sleeping soundly for brief naps and making playful explorations in the areas around her.

National Park Service’s Allison Turner clarified that people taking pictures is fine, but that it is the responsibility of everyone visiting the island to ensure all the horses remain wild without people interacting with them.

“If I could have people do one thing to help these horses, it would be to give them their space,” Turner said. “When wild horses get crowded by people, especially at such a young and influential age, it changes their behavior and sets up many dangerous situations in the future — for both the horse and for people around them.”

All visitors are expected to share the responsibility of allowing the wild horses to continue to live on the island without our interference and disturbance. To ensure that, the National Park Service has implemented new enforcement policies that will fine individuals who move closer than 10 feet towards the horses. Pony Patrol volunteers also bike the roadways to educate visitors about keeping a safe distance from the wild horses.

This new foal is identified as N2BHS-CK until she is named during a charitable naming rights auction held at the end of the year. The alpha numeric naming has been used by the National Park Service since the mid-1970s to trace the lineage and ancestry of the horses. All the foals born in 2011 had a J at the end of their alpha-numeric name, and any foals born in 2012 conclude their names with a K. Many horses also have a common name, like April Star, the dam (the term for a mother horse) of this new foal. She and about 90 of the horses on the island are in the Foster Horse Program managed by the friends group of the National Seashore, Assateague Island Alliance (www.assateaguewildhorse.org).

The program is an opportunity for visitors to pay an annual fostering membership ($31) and receive a portfolio with an 8×10 photo of their wild horse, biography information about their horse and an annual subscription to the “Horsin’ Around’ newsletter. Proceeds support the National Park Service’s management of the wild horses.

This new foal will be added to the foster horse program after she receives a name during the annual charitable naming rights auction conducted by the friends group in November and December of each year. The highest bidder during a 10-day eBay auction is provided the naming rights for a foal. Once named, foals are introduced into the foster horse program.

To see photos of the new filly, visit www.facebook.com/thedispatchoc

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