SHACKLEFORD BANKS, N.C. (WNCN) – The National Park Service said a wild newborn foal must now live as a domesticated horse after being pulled onto a boat by beach visitors.

On March 26, NPS said a group of visitors on Shackleford Banks came across a newborn foal in the Wade Shore area. The baby wild stallion followed them for about two hours. The group said there were no other horses present during the time the foal followed them.

newborn foal separated from herd
Courtesy: NPS

When they went to their boat to leave the island, NPS said the foal tried to follow them. Thinking that the foal would drown, the visitors pulled it into the boat with them and left.

NPS said a stallion might drive a group of mares away from a sleeping foal then keep a mare from going back to get her foal because it does not want to lose her. This might cause the foal to lose contact with its harem.

“For a short period early in a foal’s life, it instinctively follows its dam without necessarily knowing which creature she is. When separated, the foal will follow other horses or even people,” said Dr. Sue Stuska, Cape Lookout National Seashore Wildlife Biologist.

However, NPS said once a foal has been removed from the seashore, it is unlikely that it can be reunited with its mother. This foal cannot be returned to Shackleford Banks and is now in the care of the Foundation for Shackleford Horses. The Foundation often works with the NPS to care for horses who have been removed.

The visitors have been cited for removing the horse. NPS said they are working with this group to assist with future educational opportunities and community service projects that will benefit Shackleford Banks, and the horses protected there.

NPS said March is the beginning of foaling season on Shackleford Banks. Visitors observing strange animal behaviors may call the park visitor center or 911 to report to park staff.

Visitors should also be aware that foals do often sleep on their sides, nearly motionless, for hours. From a distance, visitors should look for the flick of an ear or tail or watch for the rise and fall of the ribcage. Visitors should need to stay at least 50-feet away from any wildlife in the park.