ASSATEAGUE — An Assateague foal, orphaned following a hit-and-run collision on the Maryland side two weeks ago, changed statehood this week when she was transferred just across the border to Virginia.
On July 6, the popular mare Moonshadow was found dead by a park employee in the oceanside campground at Assateague Island National Seashore. It is believed Moonshadow succumbed to injuries sustained in a hit-and-run collision with a vehicle sometime the week prior. Moonshadow’s three-month old foal, known only thus far as N2BHS-CPK, was also injured in the collision and was left partially lame.
This week, the National Park Service (NPS) announced the orphaned foal injured in the low-speed hit-and-run collision has been relocated to the Virginia side of Assateague Island, where she will be monitored and cared for as needed. The wild horses on the Maryland side are just that and are generally left to the whims of nature, and although they are counted and monitored and looked after, NPS officials rarely intercede on behalf of their overall health unless some man-made situation occurs.
Such was the case with the foal orphaned and injured in the hit-and-run incident earlier this month. The foal was left slightly lame from the collision and had been observed grazing and apparently in good health. However, given her young age, the foal was a significant disadvantage with the death of her mare, Moonshadow.
According to NPS wildlife experts and veterinarians, foals generally nurse more than three months and are still learning to graze, as well as integrate socially into the herd. After consultation with NPS wildlife experts and veterinarians, the decision was made this week to relocate the foal to the Virginia side of the barrier island to improve its chances of survival.
The Virginia herd is managed by the Chinoteague Volunteer Fire Company and the injured foal will receive immediate supplemental care if needed, although pictures of her in her new surroundings show she appears to be thriving already. The foal has been introduced to the herd at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
The refuge serves as an ideal site for relocation because the environmental conditions and grazing habitats are nearly identical to those on the Maryland side of the barrier island. Assateague Island National Seashore officials thanked the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company for their quick and professional response after it was determined a management intervention was warranted given the foal’s survival was uncertain due to the human-caused event.
The unfortunate loss of Moondshadow serves as a grim reminder of the importance of using care and caution while driving on the island and interacting with its famous wild inhabitants. The horses often interact and mingle with the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the island with sometimes dangerous or deadly results.
Many of the horses inhabit wild and seldom visited areas of the island, but more than a few can routinely be seen in and around the visitor areas, interacting with vehicles, beach goers and campers. Drivers are reminded to be alert at all times on the barrier island. When approaching horses in or on the side of the road, it may be necessary to drive even slower than the posted speed limit as common sense would dictate. Unfortunately, common sense, like horse sense, is often in short supply with vacationers interacting with wild animals on the barrier island.
Shortly after the news of Moonshadow’s death and her injured foal came out, a petition was started calling for speed bumps along Bayberry Drive to slow traffic down. By midweek this week, the petition had received nearly 13,000 signatures.