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Exploring the Atlantic Wild Horse Trail with Bonnie Gruenberg
Carrot Island, Town Marsh, Bird Shoal, Horse Island, and Middle Marshes make up the 2,315-
Carrot Island appears on maps as early as 1777, and it was the site of a fishery in the early 1800s. In 1782, during the Revolutionary War, a small British party landed near the mouth of Taylors Creek, exchanged fire with locals, and then withdrew to overnight on Carrot Island. The next morning, the British overcame the local troops in Beaufort and briefly occupied the town (Fear, 2008). A fishery was established on Carrot Island as early as 1806 (Fear, 2008). In the 1920s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged Taylors Creek and deposited the sand on Carrot, building it higher and increasing its stability. Carrot Island, Town Marsh, Bird Shoal, and Horse Island, acquired in 1985, total more than 3 mi/4.8 km in length and less than 1 mi/1.6 km in width. Middle Marsh, acquired in 1989, is roughly 2 mi/3.2 km long and less than 1 mi/1.6 km wide. The Reserve was named in honor of Rachel Carson, who conducted research at the site in the 1940s.
A Beaufort physician named Luther Fulcher, who also owned horses on Shackleford banks, released six of his horses to graze Carrot Island and its associated salt marshes, intertidal flats, and tidal creeks in the late 1940s; but these animals were not the first equids to graze these marshes. Free-
Moreover, the Army Corps of Engineers dredged more than 150,000 tons/136 million kg of silt and sand from Beaufort Channel and deposited it atop the island, forming an 18-
During the winter of 1986-
Spring brought numerous foals, and by August 1988 the herd numbered 51. The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries had helped them through the 1987–1988 winter by providing 20 bales of hay each week. A point well ensured fresh water. But clearly this level of human assistance could not continue. If the horses were to remain as on the island, their numbers must be in balance with their environment.
Biologists determined that Carrot Island could comfortably sustain between 15 and 25 horses, and in 1988 the state removed 33 of 52. Nine of the 33 removed tested positive for EIA and were euthanized. Private individuals adopted the remainder.
In 1998, the Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources permitted a representative herd of 30 horses to remain on the Rachel Carson Reserve. Reserve personnel manage herd size with PZP, a medication that literally vaccinates a mare against pregnancy.
Additionally, the Army Corps of Engineers currently deposits dredge spoils alongside Carrot Island rather than on top of it.
The reserve keeps a record book that tracks each horse, noting parentage, appearance, reproductive record, contraceptive doses, general health, social habits and, eventually, death. The Reserve comprises several islands separated by shallows, creeks and mud flats, which frustrate access by personnel and make immunocontraception difficult to implement. In the 1990s, veterinarians repeatedly attempted to test each Carrot Island horse for EIA within the same week and were unsuccessful because of the inaccessible terrain (Taggart, 2008).
Although the herd appears healthy and in a reasonable balance with its environment, many voice concerns about the long-
In April, 2011, the census of the Rachel Carson herd included 31 adult horses and 1 foal, most living in one of 7 harems. Bachelor stallions in the herd tend to wander alone rather than to form bachelor bands.
Horses remain on Carrot Island, but relations with their caretakers are strained. The managers of the state lands on which they graze see the horses as incompatible with the management goals of the reserve and fear long-
Fear, J., et al. (2008, August). A comprehensive site profile for the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve. Retrieved from http://www.nerrs.noaa.gov/Doc/PDF/Reserve/NOC_SiteProfile.pdf
Muse, A. (1941). The story of the Methodists in the Port of Beaufort. New Bern, NC: Owen G. Dunn.
Saffron, I. (1987, April 20). As ponies die, an entire town feels the pain. Retrieved from http://articles.philly.com/1987-
Taggart, J.B. (2008). Management of feral horses at the North Carolina Estuarine Research Reserve. Natural Areas Journal, 28(2), 187–195. Doi: 10.3375/0885-
Urquhart, B. S. (2002). Hoofprints in the sand: Wild horses of the Atlantic Coast. Lexington, Ky.: Eclipse.
Historical sites, museums, attractions, parks, recreation areas-
Carrot Island, NC
Campground, hotel, motel, or B&B -
Bistros, delis, restaurants, snack bars, buffets-
Carrot Island/Rachel Carson Estuary Links
|Assateague, MD - Visiting|
|Assateague MD - Lodging|
|Assateague MD - Dining|
|Corolla, NC Visiting|
|Corolla, NC - Dining|
|Corolla, NC - Lodging|
|Ocracoke Island Lodging|
|Ocracoke Island Dining|
|Visiting Ocracoke Island|
|Visiting Shackleford Banks|
|Shackleford Banks Dining|
|Shackleford Banks Lodging|
|Visit Cumberland Island GA|
|Cumberland Island National Seashore - dining|
|Cumberland Island National Seashore Lodging|
|The Value of Wild Horses|