ASSATEAGUE — Just over one month after a wild horse was struck and injured by a vehicle on Assateague, a similar incident occurred on Monday evening when yet another of the barrier island’s most famous inhabitants was hit.
Around 5 p.m., a horse named N2BHS-AG, or more affectionately known as “Joy,” was hit by a vehicle on Bayside Drive in the Assateague Island National Seashore. Unlike the incident just about one month earlier to the day, the people who hit the horse on Monday went directly to the ranger station to report it. During the June incident, the injuries suffered by “Maggie” were consistent with being hit by a vehicle, including distinctive road rash on her side, but nobody came forward and reported hitting the animal.
The people who hit Joy on Monday said the horse was part of a larger group that ran suddenly out of the bushes and crossed the road. They told park rangers they immediately applied the brakes, but were unable to avoid the horse, which was struck in the chest by a cooler rack attached to the front of the vehicle.
Fortunately in this case, the visitors were driving slowly when they saw the horses bolt into the road. They were able to slow down to the point where they likely prevented a much more serious injury to the horse. Immediately after the collision, Joy was bleeding heavily from a gash on his chest caused by the cooler rack.
By Tuesday morning, Joy was grazing with his mares, marking stud piles and wandering around the campground, according to Assateague Island National Seashore officials. The gash on his chest was in a position where it will likely drain well. Nonetheless, Assateague officials will continue to monitor Joy’s healing process in the coming days and even weeks.
Monday’s incident provides an opportunity for National Park Service officials to reinforce the importance of giving the wild horses on Assateague plenty of space. In a statement this week, Assateague officials said “they can’t emphasize enough the need to not only drive slowly around the horses, but to remain completely aware of your surroundings at all times. Just as with deer crossing the road, where there is one horse, expect another.”
The Park Service has several safety reminders for visitors and residents regarding the horses mingling with vehicles. Drivers are reminded to be alert at all times on the barrier island, especially around the horses. Visitors are also reminded to not encourage the horses to come to their vehicles. The horses will sometimes approach vehicles and even stick their noses in car windows, but they are wild and often dangerous.
Not only is it illegal for visitors to encourage the horses to come to their vehicles, it is also illegal. It is also dangerous for both the horses and the visitors. Since 1982, 29 wild horses on Assateague have been killed by vehicles. Thirteen others have been hit and survived, but suffered severe injuries.
Residents are urged to always obey the posted speed limits. However, when approaching horses in or on the side of the road, it may be necessary to drive even slower than the posted speed limit as common sense would dictate. Unfortunately, common sense, like horse sense, is often in short supply with vacationers interacting with wild animals on the barrier island.
In addition, Parks Service officials are taking the opportunity to warn residents and visitors not to feed or pet the wild horses, regardless of how tame or friendly they appear to be. Petting and feeding can cause harmful behavior changes in the horses. As they become more unafraid of humans, the horses can become more aggressive.