Expanded Name That Foal Contest Opens Soon

ASSATEAGUE – Officials with a local nonprofit say community members will have more opportunities to name the six new foals born on Assateague Island this year.

Each year, Assateague Island Alliance – a nonprofit friends group – holds a Name That Foal auction for naming rights of the foals born in the Assateague Island National Seashore. Proceeds raised through the auction are then used to support the park’s Wild Horse Management Program.

But Outreach Coordinator Ashlie Kozlowski said this year’s fundraising efforts will give more community members a chance to participate. This year, the foals born in 2021 will be named through a combination of eBay auctions, online raffles and a new community polling process that will allow people to vote for their favorite moniker.

“This year we wanted to keep our options fluid, so we can balance what is productive financially and engages the most people,” she said.

An eBay auction will soon open to name the first of six foals born in 2021. Kozlowski said auctions held this year will be balanced with raffles and a community naming process.

“We’re trying to see what the public wants,” she said.

In 1994, park management introduced a long-term fertility control program to manage the numbers of the Maryland herd after its population reached nearly 200 horses, well above the goal range of 80 to 100. As part of the program, each mare can birth one foal to sustain the herd size before being treated with a contraceptive.

Kozlowski noted the current size of the herd totals 83 horses, and in recent years park management has initiated its adaptive management phase, allowing the population to increase toward the upper end of the goal range. As a result, there are more opportunities for community members to name a foal, identified using an alpha-numeric code that traces their lineage and tracks their sub-herd.

“The mares are being allowed to foal more frequently,” Kozlowski said. “There were six foals born this year, so there are more naming opportunities.”

Assateague Island Alliance was formed in 2008 to promote the education, awareness and protection of Assateague Island National Seashore’s wildlife and natural resources. All proceeds from donations and fundraising efforts directly benefit the park.

“We’re able to access funding and accept donations not tied to specific line item in their budget,” Kozlowski said. “If they have something they are unable to fund … we’re able to provide the funding. It cuts out a lot of red tape.”

Kozlowski said the Name That Foal contest began years ago as a way to support the park’s horse management program. In recent years, however, use of funds has shifted to hire interns and educate the public on proper food storage.

In 2019, for example, the nonprofit raised $100,000 in grant funding and community donations to support the replacement of all 222 picnic tables in the National Seashore with tables outfitted with wildlife-proof food storage containers. And in 2020, donations from supporters allowed the nonprofit to refurbish two golf carts and provide stipends and safety equipment for two Wild Horse Management interns.

“It’s really about trying to enhance what the park already does and do it in an efficient way,” Kozlowski said. “And donors play a large part in that.”

Kozlowski said more information on the community naming process will be announced in the near future. For more information on Assateague Island Alliance, or its Name That Foal fundraiser, visit assateagueislandalliance.org or any of the nonprofit’s social media accounts.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.