Sunday, May 30, 2010
ASSATEAGUE ISLAND & ITS WILD PONIES
We caught a glimpse of the world-famous Assateague wild ponies on a visit this Memorial Day weekend at the Assateague Island National Seashore.
The wreck of a Spanish galleon found recently off the coast appears to buttress the theory the horses landed after the vessel carrying them (possibly to Florida) sank.
They freely roam the beaches, pine forest and salt marsh of the 37-mile Assateague Island since the 1600s (they are said to be excellent swimmers).
There are over 300 wild ponies in the state park that straddles Maryland and Virginia (they are divided by a fence and each state has about 160 heads.
The ponies have become well-adapted to the solitude of the barrier island, feeding on marsh and sand dune grasses, rosehips, bayberry twigs and persimmons.
The National Park Service ensures the wild horse population is maintained at a level the seashore habitat can sustain. Some female horses are regularly shot with dart guns laden with contraceptive vaccines.