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There are currently 33 horses on the reserve - 14 males and 19 females. (updated 3/19/14) .
Despite the harsh conditions the horses have thrived on the reserve. During the late 1980s and early 1990s the population exceeded capacity. This led to massive malnutrition and several deaths. The horses are considered a cultural resource; management action was required using a birth control program. This coupled with natural mortality helped the population get near the target number of 40 horses.
The reserve's staff from the Beaufort office oversees the horse management. Individual horses are identified, photographed and maintained. Each horse is tracked for births, general health, social habits and eventually death. Beyond the birth control program, the horse population is treated as a wild herd.
An interview about the source of the horses
“Cap’n Claude, I want you to tell me what you know about the horses at Beaufort?”
“It was either June or July 1947, Dr. Luther Fulcher came to see me, he set right where you are now, in that same chair. He told me that he had got permission from Harvey Smith to put some horses on Bird Shoals and he wanted to move some of his horses there because they were soon going to make us move everything off Core Banks, which they did a few years later. I agreed to take my boat and barge and move them. We penned them up at the Middle Pen. Dr. Fulcher took 2 mares with colts and I took 1 mare and her colt. We loaded them on a barge and I took them to Lennoxville. When I got there Will Dudley already had a small pen built, right across from the shad factory, where he worked. I don’t remember who owned the factory then, but Will agreed to look after the horses. He put an old bath tub there on the shore and run a water hose across to it to make sure they had plenty of water. We kept them in the pen for a day or two until they got used to the area then tore the pen down. The next year during the May penning at the Diamond Pen, we put one of Dr. Fulcher studs in my boat and I took him to the same place and jumped him out.”
“Along about 1950 Dr. Fulcher decided to try and build up the breed so he went to the horse market outside Jacksonville and bought a part quarter horse, a larger horse, but he only lasted one summer. He couldn’t make it on his own so they took him off before winter came. Several years later Will started penning them every year and would move 5 or 6 horses. I got one horse from there. Several years before he died, Dr. Fulcher come to me and said he was going to give his horses to Will and I agreed that he should have my share also. With that I went out of the Bird Shoal horse business. So far as I know, when Will died the ownership of the horses passed on to his heirs.”
“In 1947, when you put those six horses on Carrot Island, were there any horses already there?”
“Not to my knowledge and had there have been somebody would have sure mentioned it. This don’t mean that there hadn’t been horses there before. These bank ponies are swimmers or they could have washed there in a hurricane. If anyone says that they saw horses there years ago, I wouldn’t doubt them.”