Charges Pending In Assateague Horse Shooting

ASSATEAGUE — Assateague National Seashore officials this week announced charges are pending against a Maryland man who allegedly shot and killed one of the barrier island’s famed wild horses during a two-day firearm deer season in January.

On or about Jan. 16, one of the wild horses inhabiting Assateague Island was shot and killed during a planned, two-day deer hunt on the barrier island. The 28-year-old horse, victim of an apparent gunshot wound, was found dead by a hunter and was reported to park rangers the following day.

For the last month or so, the investigation has been ongoing with evidence collected at the scene and numerous interviews conducted with individuals on the island during the two-day deer hunt in January.

“Charges are pending against a Maryland man who allegedly shot and killed a wild horse during a public deer hunt at Assateague,” said Assateague National Seashore Management Assistant Carl Zimmerman this week. “Based on preliminary results, park rangers are moving forward with the case. Reports and materials have been delivered to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and evidence has been submitted to the Federal Crime Laboratory for analysis.”

While park rangers have identified a suspect, they will not name the alleged shooter until the investigation is complete, according to Chief Ranger Ted Morlock.

“The suspect’s name will be released when charges are formally filed with the U.S. Attorney,” he said.

The horse that was killed was a 28-year-old mare with the identification number N2BH. While some of the wild ponies on Assateague are known by regular names, each is assigned a letter-number combination linked to the specific herds that allow park officials to track their whereabouts and breeding habits, for example.

During her lifetime, N2BH foaled six times and had 11 second or third generation offspring. In recent years, N2BH had been treated annually with contraceptives as part of a broader effort to maintain the size of the wild horse population at a sustainable level.

The two-day January deer hunt on Assateague is part of the National Seashore’s annual hunting program that includes several gun seasons during the fall and early winter. In addition to providing a unique and popular recreational opportunity, the hunting program is used to manage resident deer populations.