A Shackleford Banks horse unexpectedly died while under anesthesia Wednesday during an attempt to transfer the 6-year-old male to the Rachel Carson Reserve herd in Beaufort, just a few miles north.
The transfer of the stallion from the Shackleford Banks herd on Cape Lookout National Seashore was in coordination with the National Park Service, its wild horse management partner the Foundation for Shackleford Horses, and the Division of Coastal Management’s North Carolina Coastal Reserve Program that manages the Rachel Carson Reserve herd.
Wild horses removed from Cape Lookout National Seashore’s Shackleford Banks by the National Park Service are directed by the Shackleford Banks Wild Horses Protection Act to be turned over to the Foundation for Shackleford Horses to be placed for adoption. In this situation, the foundation was placing the horse with the state division under the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to become a part of the wild horse herd on the Rachel Carson Reserve.
The stallion was being transferred to the Rachel Carson Reserve “to support the long-term viability and health of the wild horse herd located there,” National Park Service officials said Friday in a release. “The Shackleford stallion was carefully pre-selected based on its body condition, age and social status to ensure the best outcome for the animal as it joined the Rachel Carson Reserve herd.”
Cape Lookout National Seashore Superintendent Jeff West said he was “utterly devastated over the loss of the horse. We had such high hopes for this stallion helping out the Rachel Carson Reserve’s genetic viability.”
Officials said that the horse was humanely sedated on Shackleford Banks Wednesday morning with an anesthetic that has been used on the horses for years. A veterinarian was continuously monitoring the horse’s vital signs as it was being transported along the beach toward the vessel that would carry it to the Rachel Carson Reserve.
During that transport, the horse suddenly died. Efforts to resuscitate the horse began immediately but were not successful. Testing and analysis to determine a possible cause of death, including any unknown, underlying conditions, is ongoing, and results may take several weeks to arrive, officials said.
“We are mourning the loss of this stallion, and the loss to both of our herds,” said Margaret Poindexter, foundation president. “The Foundation was excited about this partnership with Rachel Carson Reserve to further its wild horse preservation efforts, and to continue our collaboration with them to protect our local Banker herds.”
Coastal Reserve Central Sites Manager Paula Gillikin said that it was a somber day for all involved and “we are committed to gleaning as much information as possible about why the horse suddenly died. The loss of the stallion won’t be forgotten as we continue our partnership to ensure that our local wild horse herds thrive into the future.”