The fence that separates Virginia and North Carolina was installed by volunteers in the early 2000s and has held up remarkably well. However, it stops short of the sound because of the difficult, marshy terrain. For an intrepid horse, getting into Virginia is certainly possible, but over the past 15-20 years there have been very few instances of that happening.
In January of 2018 CWHF began receiving calls about a group of horses that were making their way around (or up, over, or through) the northern barrier fence and into False Cape State Park in Virginia. There are many reasons why this was unsafe for both horses and humans, and while we hoped that maybe it was just a one-time exploration, we were pretty sure that the horses were establishing patterns and territory up in Virginia.
The horses—four mares, a stallion, and a yearling colt, were moved back to Carova several times, and once even trailered to the southernmost part of the refuge and released, but they continuously made their way back up into Virginia. The stallion is young, and this group includes what we believe is his first foal and the first mares he was ever able keep, so he is very protective and territorial. We believe that he was moving away from the pressure of other stallions, and of course the fact that there was lots of green grass in the state park influenced his behavior too.
CWHF worked with the folks at False Cape and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge to return the horses to North Carolina and figure out solutions to the fence problem. It was decided that the fence needed to be extended by about 1600 feet, which would require hiring a contractor with equipment that could be operated in the swampy marsh. Our mission is, first and foremost, to keep the horses wild, in their natural habitat, and we were hoping that this could be the case for the six that were starting to call Virginia their home. Unfortunately, the timing just didn’t work out.
There was big concern from the officials in Virginia that the horses would make their way into the populated areas of Virginia Beach. It would be several weeks before construction on the fence could start and, in the meantime, the horses were deemed a nuisance by the Department of the Interior, and we had no choice but to allow them to be removed and brought to our rescue farm. While they are no longer wild, at least they are now safe and in the Fund’s care.
The yearling colt is Mateo, who was born in April of last year. We named his father Lucky Duck (Ducky for short) after he got caught up in the cattle guard but luckily survived the incident. His mother is Virginia Dare, and the other three mares are Ocean Pearl, Bonita, and Kitty Hawk.
Mateo has been adopted by a wonderful family who already has two other rescued Corolla horses, along with a few retired domestic horses and a mini donkey. He’ll be living on a big, beautiful, hilly farm just outside of Lexington, Virginia.
As for the rest of the family, they will be staying at our rescue farm for the foreseeable future. We plan on keeping Ducky as an Ambassador horse for educational outreach, and also a breeding stallion for our captive herd. Bonita was diagnosed with Lyme disease not long after she arrived, so she’s being treated for that and showing some signs of improvement. Kitty Hawk and Ocean Pearl have already been saddled and worked in the round pen, and we’re looking forward to getting a rider on them both!
Virginia Dare is the boss mare, and we’ve been taking it slow with her. She demands respect and space, and we’re happy to give it to her. She did an amazing job taking care of Mateo during their escapades, and she deserves an easy life now. Virginia is the mare who accepted orphaned foal Chris in June and kept him company for his short time with us. She’s a very special girl.