National Park Service asking people to respect horses at Assateague Island National Seashore
ASSATEAGUE ISLAND, Md. – The National Park Service says they’ve charged the person responsible for touching and even hopping onto wild horses on Assateague Island. “Thanks to some visitors, they notified our law enforcement officers and they were able to charge him. The maximum penalty for such an offense is a fine of $5,000 and or up to six months in prison,” said Kelly Taylor with the NPS.
Taylor says going into this holiday weekend, people should remember that the horses are wild animals. “Being used to being around people and becoming habituated causes problems for other people because the horses are unpredictable,” said Taylor.
The NPS says interfering with wild horses can be dangerous not only to the animals – but to people as well. “They become habituated, and being habituated doesn’t mean that they are tame or are to be treated like pets. It means that they lose their fear of humans. So in situations where horses are used to being around people, they become much more aggressive,” said Taylor.
Taylor says that incidents between visitors and horses have increased as visitor numbers go up every year. “It has become much more prevalent over the years because our visitation has increased. We have more people and there are more opportunities for the people to interact with the horses. We have a horse management team set up. We have four individuals who – that is their job – all day, every day 40 hours a week, they go around and try to educated visitors,” said Taylor.
Looking ahead to the holiday weekend – Taylor says that she hopes people are able to appreciate the wildlife safely, and from a distance. “Just enjoy them in their natural setting. Of course their natural setting is not necessarily a parking lot – but if you see them out on the beach or on the marsh, just keep in mind that we need to be safe for the horses and we need to be safe around the horses for ourselves,” said Taylor.
The NPS says that if you’re visiting Assateague Island and see someone inappropriately interacting with the horses, you can call their dispatch line at (757) 898-0058.