On Monday, the Corolla Wild Horse Fund shared a Facebook post announcing the tragic passing of a colt in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The yearling, named Danny, choked on an apple that someone left on the beach.
The herd manager, Meg Puckett, said that the animal died “in a horrific, devastating, completely preventable way.” The culprit is still unknown, but the death happened during the height of the tourist season.
“When we say that apples and carrots kill wild horses, we are not kidding. We are not being overly dramatic. We are not using scare tactics,” Puckett wrote.
“Danny was killed by humans who had no regard for the safety of the horses. No regard for the health of the horses. No regard for the laws put in place to protect the horses,” she continued.
According to Outerbanks.com, the wild horses in the area feed on sea oats, grasses, persimmons, and acorns. Apples aren’t part of their natural diet.
It is believed that Danny had an obstructed esophagus for days, but the herd manager only learned of it Friday morning after someone called to report a horse in distress. At the direction of an equine veterinarian, Puckett and her team administered a sedative, hoping to relax his esophagus and take out the apple. They loaded him into a trailer and took him to the rescue farm where the doctor was waiting for them.
The sedative worked and was able to dislodge the apple, however, a closer examination revealed that the fruit had been stuck in his throat long enough to cause an infection and a rupture to his esophagus.
Despite all efforts to save his life, it was too late; Danny died that same evening at the animal hospital. The equine veterinarian told them he most likely died due to a “traumatic head injury from thrashing around for days while he was choking.” The damage in his esophagus could have also caused a bleeding into his lungs.
“If this is hard for you to read, we can promise you it was much harder to witness in person, and it was absolute hell for Danny to suffer through,” Puckett wrote. “Danny was just a baby. Even in the few short hours he was in our care, he had started to look to us for comfort and support.”
There are about 100 horses at Corolla. Another herd of 100 horses roams freely on the Shackleford Banks within Cape Lookout National Seashore. Currituck County has laws against people intentionally getting within 50 feet of the horses. Feeding them is also illegal in any form.
To remind people of this, signs warning against feeding them were scattered around the yard and along the dunes. A large billboard saying that carrots and apples kill horses is also displayed in the location. Even before Danny’s death, the management has been planning to add more signs in the area.
This death comes at a time when the Corolla Wild Horse Fund and the Foundation for Shackleford Horses have reported multiple incidents in which tourists have been seen harassing the horses. In May, the National Park Service said that three visitors in Outer Banks were photographed chasing a month-old horse just to get selfies. During the incident, the foal was separated from its mother. Luckily, the two were eventually reunited, according to the park.
Puckett’s strict reminder to tourists in the area is this: “Stop feeding the horses. Stop touching the horses, Stop interacting with the horses. If the horses come up to you, walk away. Secure your belongings on the beach. Pick up your garbage. Call and report infractions that you witness.”
These horses are beautiful, but we must learn to admire them only from afar. Read more about how you can help protect the Corolla horses by clicking on this link.
Watch the video below and share this story to raise awareness about the dangers of feeding wild horses.