ASSATEAGUE — The clock is ticking on a unique opportunity for a holiday gift as an auction for the naming rights of a wild foal born on Assateague last spring is set to expire early next week.
Each year, the Assateague Island Alliance auctions the naming rights to a foal born in the Assateague Island National Seashore and the current auction is set to expire at midnight on Monday. The annual Foal Naming Rights Charitable Auction, active on eBay since last Friday, will allow the successful bidder to name the foal currently referred to as the rather generic and scientific N2BHS-CK.
The foal was born into the herd of wild horses on Assateague last March 9 and immediately started delighting thousands of park visitors throughout the summer months. The foal is a filly born to mare April Star, which was, ironically, also named by a successful bidder in the annual auction program a few years ago. The foal has pinto coloration and is mostly white with brown patches. The sire was likely a sorrel stallion who lives near the campground areas and the foal and her parents are often seen around the popular Bayberry Drive area near the entrance to the island.
The foal’s current designation, N2BHS-CK, is taken from an alpha-numeric system put in place by the National Park Service in the mid-1970s to track the lineage and ancestry of the wild horses and identify which sub-herd they belong to and the areas they frequent on the island. For example, April Star, the foal’s mother, is identified officially as N2BHS.
While in some years, multiple foal-naming auctions are held, the foal currently up for bid will be the only one whose naming rights are auctioned this year. A second foal born on Assateague this year has already been named by the National Park Service in honor of Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick, the scientist who researched and developed the contraceptive that was originally studied on the Assateague horses and is now used to control mammal populations worldwide. The bay-colored filly has been named “Dr. Jay” and lives in the over-sand vehicle area of the island away from most visitors.
The contraceptive program is a means for the National Park Service to control the size of the herd on Assateague. Each mare is allowed to birth one foal to sustain the herd size before being treated with a contraceptive to prevent future births. Currently the size of the herd numbers 114, down from a peak of 175 over a decade ago, but still a good distance away from the ideal target of 80-100 horses.
The naming rights auction for the pinto filly N2BHS-CK is up and running on eBay and will remain open until midnight on Dec. 17. As of late yesterday, 13 bids had been offered and the highest was $660. After the auction, the newly-named foal, along with “Dr. Jay,” will be added to the Assateague Island Alliance’s foster horse program. All of the horses remain wild and free on Assateague National Seashore, but the foster horse program supports the management of the wild herd. The proceeds from the auction and naming contest support those efforts.