What is the information review and what will it be used for?
The information review seeks to provide park managers with a brief history and analysis of horses in North America, on the east coast, and in the park, and provides a summary of National Park Service laws, regulations, and policies relevant to horses in the park.
Why is the National Park Service not breeding the Ocracoke ponies and when will there be a new foal?
The last foal was born in 2018. There are currently no plans to expand the herd, which is within the range of its historical size (9 to 20 horses). In 2024, the Seashore will begin preparation of a horse management plan. The primary purpose of the plan will be to ensure the short- and long-term welfare of the existing herd. The plan will include goals for the size of the herd given current and future management challenges and opportunities within the Seashore on Ocracoke Island.
Do the Ocracoke ponies represent a unique genetic line?
No. The Ocracoke horse herd is not genetically distinct from the Corolla and Shackleford Banks wild horse herds.
It is well documented that wild horses from Corolla and Shackleford Banks have been brought to Ocracoke Island for breeding purposes. For example, in 2009, a Shackleford Banks wild horse was brought to the Ocracoke Pony Pasture to live and breed, leading to the 2010 birth of a foal, locally referred to as Paloma. In 2012, the same Shackleford Banks horse produced an offspring, locally referred to as Rayo, who grew up and mated with two different mares from Shackleford Banks several years ago.It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to determine how many decades it has been since a horse on Ocracoke Island did not have a mix of parents from Corolla, Shackleford Banks, or Andalusian horses..
Is climate change and sea level rise a factor when considering future management of the Ocracoke horses?
Yes, climate change and sea level rise are factors that will be considered to ensure the long-term welfare of the horses. Given the low elevation of many areas on Ocracoke Island and projections for 10-14” of sea level rise by 2050 (Sweet et al.2022), the Seashore must evaluate these impacts as they pertain to the Ocracoke herd, its habitats, and the ability to properly manage and care for the horses.
Are horses native to North America?
No. Though equids evolved in North America, they dispersed to the Eastern Hemisphere and later became extinct in the North America (Western Hemisphere) about 5,000 years ago. When horses were later reintroduced from Europe and Asia to North America, the genetic makeup no longer represented the evolutionary linkage to those of original North America equids, as adaptation and human manipulation through selective breeding removed these linkages.
When will a new horse management plan be completed?
The planning process will start in 2024 and should be completed in about eighteen months. The park uses this webpage, located at http://go.nps.gov/ocracokeponies, for updates.
Will I be able to participate in management plan development?
Yes. The National Park Service has a formal process for the development of management plans and their corresponding environmental impact assessments in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The process includes opportunities for public input and review. Once the official management plan development and environmental assessment process has been initiated, the Seashore will invite members of the public to attend scoping meetings and to share official public comments on the National Park Service Planning, Environment and Public Comment website. To learn more about this process please visit https://parkplanning.nps.gov/links.cfm. Outside of the formal public comment process, updates pertaining to the planning process will continue to be addressed through this webpage.
Why are National Park horses managed differently than horses managed by other agencies?
Livestock, including horses, are allowed on some National Park Service lands and are managed per 36 CFR § 2.60 (a) (3). In addition, the National Park Service administers permits through the Commercial Use Authorization process for tour companies to provide horseback riding services within the boundaries of the park. The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act only applies to animals on US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands.
Why does terminology for animals differ between parks across the National Park Service?
Though park units may differ in their description of animals for public communications and interpretation purposes, all parks generally adhere to the same policies governing their management service-wide. Horses and cattle are understood to be domesticated animals and their management under the Code of Federal Regulations on park lands pertains directly to their designation as livestock.
Why are horses managed differently between National Park Service units?
Each park has unique enabling legislation pertaining to creation of the unit and management of resources within its boundaries. In addition, some parks are subject to additional legislation passed after the establishment of the park, including management of nonnative animals. For example, Cape Lookout National Seashore manages their horse herd according to specific federal legislation passed in 1998 as 16 U.S.C. §459g-4 (https://www.gpo.gov) and the subsequent 2005 Amendment by Congress 109-117;119-§2526 (http://uscode.house.gov). Cape Lookout National Seashore currently manages over 100 wild horses on Shackleford Banks.
How can I find out more information about the Ocracoke ponies and associated park actions?
The park uses this webpage for updates on ponies. On the webpage you can find answers to FAQs and announcements containing planning status updates. The FAQs will be updated to provide information about pony management actions and answer commonly asked questions about the Ocracoke ponies at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Park staff also share press releases to stakeholders and media via email and on Cape Hatteras National Seashore's Facebook page.