Two Shackleford Banks mares, the right one pregnant, pose for the camera recently. (Crystal Wasley photo)

HARKERS ISLAND — National Park Service staff at Cape Lookout National Seashore and the Foundation for Shackleford Horses report there were 111 horses on Shackleford Banks at the end of 2019.

The NPS at Cape Lookout issued its annual findings report on the Shackleford Banks horses Friday. The report is produced by the NPS at Cape Lookout and the Foundation for Shackleford Horses.  It covere the calendar year 2019 and is available on the Cape Lookout website,

According to the latest report, at the end of 2019 there were 111 horses on Shackleford Banks. The herd is 62% female and 38% male. Of the horses older than 20, there are two males and 15 females.

The oldest living horses on the island are two 26-year-old mares. Herd mortality was 12% in 2019, with 14 deaths.  Mortality still averages at 6%.

The NPS at Cape Lookout and the Foundation for Shackleford Horses emphasize the most important factor in protecting the wild horses is public education.  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, and those messages are communicated in media and through programs, like the Park’s “Horse Sense and Survival” tours.

The park now also offers visitors an opportunity to learn more about the wild horses by taking part in the Junior Ranger Wild Horse Protector activity. 

Designed for kids in grades six through eight, a parent, guardian or youth leader may check out a backpack with 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.

(4) comments


That is an absolutely beautiful couple in the picture. It was worth opening up this article just to see that picture!


Wait, what if the said backpack has someones corona virus on it? This is dangerous, and i do not see SOCIAL DISTANCING IN IT? Furthermore , WHY , are YOU folks , allowing 'strangers' around a wild horse population? You people have NO RESPECT for animals at all, shame on you. [thumbdown]

sick and tired

Oh my goodness. When there is funding involved folks will figure out a way to find it and spend it. How in the world did the horses survive all these CENTURIES not years, not decades but centuries all by themselves. Without "humans" protecting them? Poor horses survived for hundreds of years to now be poked with needles, prodded for DNA, and be violated by people retrieving all of these specimens from them. I bet the island, they miss the good ole days where they roamed the island FREE, when the locals left them be, and let them live. I'm waiting for the day when "the most important factor in protecting the wild horses" will be to relocate them. No doubt to build some new condos, or protect them from the port expansion pollution. Poor horses. When we were 6th through 8th grade we were taught by our parents, guardians, or youth leader to LEAVE THE HORSES ALONE. Don't feed them, or they will start to depend on people for food. Don't mess with them. They've been here for 100's of years and deserve peace in their home. Don't get near them. You never know what germs you could give them, and they all die. The island is theirs, not yours. They were here way before you were born, so LEAVE THEM ALONE!

(Edited by staff.)


Well said Sick and Tired.

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