OCEAN CITY — The second of three foals expected on Assateague this spring and early summer was birthed this week, continuing the veritable baby boom on the barrier island.
The new foal, a colt, was likely birthed sometime in the last week, according to the Assateague Island Alliance (AIA), the friends group of the Assateague Island National Seashore, which advocates on behalf of the island’s most famed residents. On Monday, park staff noticed clear and tiny footprints in the sand in the Little Levels area of the Oversand Vehicle Zone (OSV) and by Tuesday, the suspicions were confirmed when the first photos of the new foal were captured.
The new foal is currently known by the rather generic name N6BMT-F0 and was birthed by JoJo, also known as N6BMT-F. In the 1970s, the National Park Service began assigning alpha-numeric names to the horses on the island in order to track their lineage and ancestry as well as identify to which sub-herd they belong and the areas on the island they tend to frequent. JoJo and her new foal are members of harem stallion General Harker’s band.
The new foal is the second of what is expected to be three new foals on Assateague this spring and early summer. In late April, Carol’s Girl birthed a new foal, continuing her run as one of the most prolific mares on the barrier island. A third mare, Charmed, is also expecting and her new foal could come at any time.
A biological technician each year spends much of November conducting pregnancy tests of sorts on many of the mares on the barrier island in an attempt to predict how many, if any, new foals will join the herd in the coming year. The results of those tests were released earlier this year and Assateague officials announced three of the mares on the island, including Carol’s Girl, JoJo and Charmed were all expecting.
The second foal of the expected trio birthed this week continues a baby boom of sorts on Assateague. Last year, just one foal was birthed on the barrier island. JoJo was the mother of the only foal born in the Maryland herd last year. The only 2015 foal was named Jasper in December after a record-breaking naming rights contest hosted by the AIA. The newest additions to the Maryland herd will be named later this year after the AIA conducts similar naming rights contests.
According to the AIA, JoJo has been very protective of her new foal this week and has been keeping curious band members at a respectful distance. JoJo will soon allow the other band members to approach and greet the colt, which will quickly learn the full range of accepted equine social behaviors from his mother and the other members of General Harker’s band.
Carol’s Girl’s new foal was birthed in April in Yankee’s band, which tends to hang out in the state park area, so the mom and her foal were early and often by the public. JoJo and her new colt birthed this week live in a rather remote area near the OSV, but the AIA issued a reminder about the importance of giving the young family plenty of space.
“Even though this foal is in the back country and relatively safe from the pressures of traffic and visitors in the developed zone, it is an opportunity to remind everyone of horse safety measures,” the AIA statement reads. “Please do not approach, touch or feed the wild horses and maintain at least a bus length distance from them at all times.”
Again, the new foal is the second of three expected on the barrier island this spring and early summer. With the birth of the colt this week, the size of the herd on the Maryland side now stands at 90, which is right smack dab in the middle of the ideal range of 80 to 100. In the interest of maintaining a healthy population size, the National Park Service several years ago began a contraceptive program for the mares in the herd. Selected mares are injected with a non-invasive contraceptive called PZP in order to maintain the manageable threshold for the size of the herd.