BERLIN – A horse was struck and killed near the bridge at Assateague Island National Seashore Thursday evening.
Park officials announced today that at about 8 p.m. Thursday, the 18-year-old stallion known as Jester was hit and killed on the causeway near the Verrazzano Bridge.
“We’re heartbroken,” said Assateague Island National Seashore Superintendent Deborah Darden “We’re so sorry to have lost Jester.”
Though the accident is still under investigation, Darden said the horse was struck by a 2005 Honda Element driven by a 70-year-old woman from Silver Spring. Darden said the woman informed park officials of the accident as soon as it occurred and told them she hadn’t seen the animal standing in the road.
Darden said Jester lived near the causeway with 29-year-old mare Dee’s Heart (M17GM).
“For thousands of visitors the first horses they saw were Jester and Dee’s Heart,” Darden said, adding that the stallion had been photographed countless times. “He was a favorite of many people. It’s such a shame.”
Since 1982, 31 horses have been killed on roads within the national park. Darden said 17 of those deaths occurred on the causeway near the bridge, which is where Jester died.
“We don’t know for sure why that is,” Darden said. “It’s one of the things we’ve been talking about today.”
She’s hopeful that this week’s tragedy will provide an opportunity for national park officials to open a dialogue with neighboring state park officials and Maryland Department of Natural Resources officers to establish a multi-agency approach to managing the area near the bridge.
She’s also hopeful Jester’s death will remind visitors to remain alert as they drive on roadways through the park.
“We really try to get people to understand that horses and wildlife may be on the road at any time,” Darden said.
Visitors are asked to remain alert while driving at the park and are reminded not to urge horses to approach their vehicles, as that encourages them to frequent roadways. Drivers are asked to obey posted speed limits and to take special care when passing horses on the side of the road, as they are easily startled and may react in unexpected ways.