Assateague Island officials are warning visitors never to feed the ponies, after a mare was found dead in a campground.Photo: L. Davis/Assateague Island National Seashore
The seven-year-old mare N2BHS-AI, known as Chama Wingapo, had no visible injuries when she was found, but an investigation showed she had eaten large quantities of dog food, which caused a blockage that ruptured her intestine.
In a Facebook post, Assateague Island National Seashore explained that dog food can be deadly because it is too rich for a wild horse, whose natural diet is beach grass.
It’s a reminder that “a fed horse is a dead horse.” Officials say that the dog food may not have been given directly to the horse, but it wasn’t stored away from the horses and other wildlife. If the dog food had been secured in a vehicle, Chama Wingapo could still be alive.
Assateague Island National Seashore shares this list of guidelines for visitors to the island:
• Horses can open snap-on lids and latches. Coolers and containers “stored” under picnic tables are not secure from horses and wildlife. Secure all coolers with a nylon strap to prevent wildlife from opening.
• Secure all tote or beach bags with a zippered closure. Horses can easily access open totes and bags.
• Store all unattended food in your vehicle.
• Store all pet food in your vehicle. Do not leave your pet’s food and water bowls unattended. Horses, like your pets, are opportunists and will take advantage of a free meal.
• Keep food stored if horses are in your immediate vicinity. Wait until they have moved on before beginning your meal.
• Dispose of your trash immediately in dumpsters. The smell from food wrappers will attract horses and other wildlife, and if ingested could cause death.