The Corolla Wild Horse Fund is urging tourists not to feed the 100 or so horses wandering near the beaches of Currituck County.
Local residents have been posting yard signs to that effect and a big billboard with the same sentiment went up about a month ago, according to COO Jo Langone.
The Corolla wild horses are specialized herbivores, and they thrive on the grasses, acorns, persimmons and sea oats they find on their own. But Langone said human food can be unhealthy for horses unaccustomed to it.
“Mainly because it's not part of their natural diet, and it actually can cause great health risks,” Langone said. “Horses cannot vomit or get rid of something that is almost nearly toxic to them. So it actually can impact their system and we can lose them to colic.”
Langone said a wild foal died a few years ago after eating a watermelon rind. She said the feral horses and people will both be safer if they follow the local ordinance and keep 50 feet away from one another at all times.
After a recent beach patrol, Langone said visitors seemed to be getting the message.
“I was really heartened, let's say, to see that there were so many people just staying their respectful distance,” she said, adding people should not assume these feral animals are gentle.