Island Horses Get Sick After Raiding Camps

ASSATEAGUE — At least two wild horses on Assateague became ill after raiding campsites and eating human food, further illustrating the importance of limiting interaction between humans and the wild animals on the barrier island.

Ironically, just a week after Assateague officials posted a picture on their Facebook page about a wild horse named Chama Wingapo raiding a tent for food, the mare was one of two horses reported to be acting ill on the barrier island this week. Chama Wingapo was reportedly showing symptoms of collick in the bayside campground, but she was treated successfully. A group of campers in the bayside campground area reported Chama Wingapo, or N2BHS-AI by its alpha-numeric name, was part of a larger band that came into their campsite while they were eating breakfast.

The campers quickly left the area, but Chama Wingapo stayed behind and enjoyed a hearty, human breakfast. An inventory of what was missing after the horse left the campsite revealed Chama Wingapo ate a whole bag of sugar and a stack of maple pancakes along with other random food items. Assateague officials this week characterized the horse’s condition as human induced illness.

A second wild horse on Assateague, known as Little Dipper, or N2BHS-2, was also seen showing symptoms of collick in the oceanside campground. While it could not be determined what Little Dipper ate, it was apparent the horse was also suffering from human induced illness. Unlike Chama Wingapo, Little Dipper was not treated, but was able to get up and resume foraging for its natural diet.

Assateague officials this week reassured any visitors to the park who might have witnessed the ill horses that both have survived and are being monitored closely.

The incidents this week further illustrate the importance of not interacting with Assateague’s most famous and wild residents. As the horses become more and more familiar with humans, they tend to venture into campgrounds and other populated areas often with negative results. While the horses will venture into campgrounds or stick their heads into car windows looking for food, the interaction is dangerous and there are strict rules in place on the island about keeping a safe distance and properly securing all food and trash.

In 2011, a horse named Fabio, who had a reputation for raiding coolers and picnic tables, became aggressive and had to be removed from the barrier island to a farm in Texas after he was deemed too dangerous.