Photos and Information about Piver's Island, the Rachel Carson Reserve, Shackelford Banks and Fort Macon

Wild Horses of Rachel Carson Reserve

Photo contributed by Reserve volunteer, Robin Newton. Horses are from the same social group or "harem." Left to right: Sugargoot (lead stallion), Trilobite (subordinate stallion), and Beth (female) in the background.

A Beaufort resident, Dr. Luther Fulcher, placed horses on the islands in 1947. Livestock was also taken over to the islands to graze. With the resident's passing, the horses remained and became feral, reverting from domestication back to the wild. The horses became the property of the state when the land was purchased in the 1980s. There are currently 33 horses on the reserve - 14 males and 19 females. (3/19/2014) 

The main food supply of the feral horse is Smooth Cordgrass--Spartina alternaflora

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 30 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.

The wild horses living on the Rachel Carson Reserve are beautiful and powerful animals. To many, they represent freedom and wildness for all to enjoy. Let's all participate in protecting them (and visitor safety) by giving these majestic wild animals their space. Watching them from at least a school bus length away (preferably more) will help the horses retain their wild nature and keep visitors out of the way of fighting stallions (pictured above) or a mare protecting her foal.