Pony proof picnic tables to be installed throughout Assateague
ASSATEAGUE ISLAND, Md. – Work is underway at Assateague Island National Seashore to install over 200 new picnic tables that are specially designed to keep ponies away from peoples food.
The new picnic tables have a storage box underneath them that can only be opened by people, not horses. The goal of the new tables is to crack down on one of Assateague Island’s biggest problems, which is negative interactions between people and ponies.
Liz Davis, the Chief of Interpretation at Assateague National Seashore said, “It’s probably our number one problem.”
Every year, people from all over the country pour into Assateague to get a glimpse of the wild ponies.
Eileen and Lloyd Laramie said, “It’s one of the reasons why we came down for our trip to Maryland.”
But many visitors get too close to the horses.
Nancy Gaither with the Assateague Island Alliance said, “Part of the problem is people think this is a petting zoo.”
As a result, many of Assateague’s ponies have become a bit domesticated, so they have no problem opening up things like coolers to steal some food.
Gaither said, “They are masters at opening coolers and finding the food.”
The Laramies said, “There was actually a guy out on his bike and on the beach and the horse got right into his basket taking food right out of it.”
This poses a safety problem to humans because the horses can get territorial.
Davis said, “They start to protect these resources food resources and water resources so picnic tables or a chunk in the campground or something like that can become an area that they stake out.”
It also poses a threat to horses because eating human food can be deadly for them.
Gaither said, “What happens is the horse gets colic and you know, it’s a bad stomach ache and they try to fix the stomach ache by rolling and then they twist their intestines.”
That’s why the Assateague Island Alliance is installing over 200 special new picnic tables with cooler compartments that are pony proof.
Gaither said, “It doesn’t have a latch that the horses can manipulate because they know ow to break into the cooler straps they know how to open up those coolers.”
Now they’re just asking that people use these tables properly so they can keep the ponies wild.
“Please respect wild horses please help us teach them to be wild,” Gaither said.
All of the new picnic tables should be installed by the end of this year.
The tables are made with special materials so they wont be degraded by bad weather and the salty sea air.
They were obtained with the help of a $50,000 grant from the Maryland Historical Area Association.