If you're planning a visit this year to Cape Lookout National Seashore, you might consider joining one of the seashore's wild horse tours.
While you might not immediately associate Cape Lookout with wild horses, the seashore actually has about 100 horses roaming its sandy landscape. National Park Service historians say the horses were reintroduced to North America by European explorers and settlers. Records show horses living on the Outer Banks for centuries. Genetic research shows evidence of Spanish ancestry in the seashore's Shackleford herd.
According to the Park Service, Shackleford adults average 12 hands in height, with a range of 11 to 13 hands (4” per hand) at the withers (between neck and back). The Banker horses, also called ponies, found up and down the East Coast are somewhat related to each other in that they share a similar genetic base and a history of adaptation to life on the Outer Banks.
Cape Lookout Superintendent Russel J. Wilson says the seashore’s first wild horse tour of the 2010 season will be Wednesday, June 16. Horse Sense and Survival trips are walking tours following the wild Banker horses of Shackleford Banks.
The tours are led by Dr. Sue Stuska, a wildlife biologist who specializes in Cape Lookout's horses. Her knowledge of the horses makes for an exciting and enlightening glimpse into the relationships, family bonds, behavior, and daily life of these wild animals.
A day spent with Dr. Stuska involves a day in the sun while walking through dunes in deep sand. Comfortable closed-toe (for cactus) walking shoes that can get wet and muddy (and will stay on in the mud) are a must. Bring water, lunch/snacks, bug repellent, sunscreen, a sun hat, binoculars, and camera with a telephoto lens in a daypack or shoulder bag.
Other tours this summer and fall are scheduled for July 7, September 25, and October 9. Spaces on the tours are limited and reservations are required. Trips fill months in advance; however, a waiting list is kept. Wait-listed parties are often contacted shortly before the trip and offered spaces. The only charge is the ferry fee. Participants who arrive on their own boats pay no fee.
For reservations, meeting places, ferry costs, and other information on the trips, call 252-728-2250 ext. 3001