ASSATEAGUE — A wild foal born on Assateague last spring has a new name after a record-setting “Name That Foal” eBay auction late last month.
Each year, the Assateague Island Alliance auctions the naming rights to a foal born in the Assateague Island National Seashore and the proceeds support the organization’s management efforts for the herd of wild horses on the barrier island. The latest naming opportunity was auctioned on eBay in late December and brought a new record $1,625. The unidentified successful bidder from Millsboro has named the foal “Johnny’s Star,” after her deceased father, who was born on the same day, March 9, but different year, of course, as the horse.
The foal almost immediately began delighting the thousands of park visitors throughout the summer months. According to AIA officials, “Johnny’s Star” has lived much of her early life in and around the campgrounds and roadways in the federal portion of the park and has already become a fan favorite on the barrier island.
Prior to becoming “Johnny’s Star,” the foal was simply known by its rather generic alpha-numeric moniker N2BHS-CK. In the 1970s, the National Park Service adopted the alpha-numeric naming system to track the lineage and ancestry of the wild horses, and to better identify to which sub-herd they belong and the areas they frequent on the island.
Several years ago, the National Park Service introduced a contraceptive program as a means 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.
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”.