Shackleford Banks stallions collide in this National Park Service photo by C. Wasley. There are 117 horses on the banks including two 27-year-old mares, the oldest, according to the latest annual findings from the Cape Lookout National Seashore and the Foundation for Shackleford Horses.
The Cape Lookout National Seashore and the Foundation for Shackleford Horses recently published the 2020 report on the park’s website.
Highlights from the report include the following:
- At the end of 2020 there were 117 horses on Shackleford Banks.
- The herd is 62% female and 38% male. Of the horses over 23 years of age, there are two males and eight females.
- The oldest living horses on the island are two, 27-year-old mares.
- Herd mortality was 5% with six deaths. Mortality still averages 6%.
- Since 1999, the average lifespan of horses on Shackleford Banks has been about 11 years.
Cape Lookout and the foundation emphasize that public education is the best way to protect the horse herd. As a result, they have increased efforts to inform the public how best to watch the horses without interacting with them or interrupting their natural behavior. These messages are regularly communicated in the media and through programs like the Park’s “Horse Sense and Survival” tours.
The park now also offers a program for sixth through eighth grade students called the Junior Ranger Wild Horse Protector. A parent, guardian or youth leader may check out a backpack with the instruments needed to complete activities like those done by the wild horse biologist. Upon completion, students receive an award and are certified as Wild Horse Protectors.