The Assateague Wild Horse Population Is Within Goals.
The National Park Service recently announced the completion of a March, 2018 census of the Assateague pony population, actually the Assateague Island Horse Census. There are currently 82 horses in the census, which meets the “best practices” goal of maintaining between 80 and 100 horses living on the Maryland portion of Assateague Island.
The Assateague Pony herd in Maryland currently consists of 61 mares and 21 stallions. Those numbers include the foals (youngsters) which have not yet officially reached the age of being classed as a mare or a stallion, but is indicative of the female to male ratio.
From a National Park Service publication: “It is important to limit the number of wild horses on Assateague. Left to themselves, the horses will quickly destroy the barrier island environment that sustains them.
The National Park Service (NPS) wanted a safe, effective way to control overpopulation. Researchers working in conjunction with the NPS developed a non-hormonal, non-invasive vaccine to prevent pregnancy. This vaccine is delivered by a dart to the hindquarters of selected mares each spring.
To keep the gene pool as large as possible each mare is allowed to have one offspring. This vaccine has successfully lowered the birth rate of Maryland’s horses to only a few foals per year – enough to ensure a sustainable population.”
Below is the narrative from the NPS website for Assateague Island National Seashore concerning the Assateague Pony Population:
Assateague Island Horse Census Results
News Release Date: April 4, 2018
Berlin, MD – The National Park Service has completed its March 2018 population census of the wild horses on Assateague Island. The total population of the Maryland herd is currently at 82 horses, which is well within the ideal population range. The herd currently includes 21 stallions and 61 mares, and at least one mare is known to be pregnant at this time. There have been a total of 6 horse deaths documented in 2018 so far, including 5 mares (T3L, N6EL, M17GM “Dee’s Heart”, X15P, T5AFP “AR Arianna” and 1 stallion (N6BMS “Llama Boy”) . All those lost were mature, aged individuals having lived out their full lives within the national seashore.
The National Park Service completes a full census of the horse population in Maryland six times per year, in February, March, May, July, September, and November. Managed as a wildlife population, the Assateague horses are free to roam over approximately 27 miles of the barrier island and can be difficult to find at times. During each census, horses are identified by their distinguishing characteristics, mapped and counted. Individual horses that are not observed during multiple census periods are presumed dead. The purpose of the census is to monitor the population dynamics of the horse herd in support of the long term fertility control program that was initiated in 1994.
As a side note…
If you would like to “Adopt” an Assatague Pony read this: Assateague Foster Horse Program. It is a cool way to help maintain the Assateague Pony Herd (because it is mostly a donation to the Assateague Island Alliance.