BERLIN – The herd of wild horses at Assateague Island grew by one this week when the third foal expected this year was born.
The mare Gokey Go Bones (identified as N2BHS-A) gave birth to a pinto colt Monday. The foal was born out on the marsh near the curves on Bayberry Drive at Assateague Island National Seashore.
Officials from Assateague Island Alliance (AIA), the friends group that supports the national park, says one more foal is expected in the near future.
“Charmed is still pregnant and a fourth foal is expected soon,” said Ashlie Kozlowski, AIA Outreach Coordinator. “She is in the back country and not encountered as often as the horses in the developed zone so it can be any day now.”
The new colt, identified as N2BHS-AO, is a bay colt with a little white spot on the left side of his body, tall front stockings and a small left hind sock. Kozlowski said he was part of a band of horses that lived in a busy area of Assateague.
“This band of horses is currently in the developed zone of Assateague Island and subject to the added stress of being near visitors and their vehicles,” she said.
Park officials are asking that people maintain a safe distance of at least a bus length — as they’re always advised to — and not to be tempted to approach the horses for a closer look.
“Please allow mom and baby to recuperate from the stress of birth and for the rest of the band to adjust to life with a new little one,” Kozlowski said.
The fourth mare expected to have a foal this year is Charmed. During the annual pregnancy tests conducted by park technicians in November, Charmed, JoJo and Carol’s Girl were determined to be expecting.
Carol’s Girl gave birth in April and JoJo had a foal in May. As officials continued to monitor Charmed for signs of an impending birth, they noticed Gokey Go Bones had an increasingly large belly. Officials believe the November pregnancy test in her case was a false negative.
Allison Turner, the park’s biological technician, has spent the past two decades monitoring the habits of Assateague Island’s wild horses. Each November she follows the island’s 41 mares around waiting for them to defecate. The samples she collects are tested to determine which mares are pregnant.
For years the National Park Service has been using a contraceptive program for the mares at Assateague to maintain a healthy population size. Selected mares are injected with a non-invasive contraceptive called PZP in an effort to maintain the size in its manageable threshold. From this point on, the results of the year-end pregnancy testing along with the estimated population will determine which, if any, mares will be darted with the contraceptive program.
With the current program, the park usually welcomes a foal or two a year, making this year’s expected four a baby boom on the island.
There are now 91 horses at Assateague, which puts the park’s horse population just where it should be, as the ideal range is 80-100.
AIA is expected to host naming contests for the park’s new additions later this year.